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Stop Trying to Give Your Employees a Heart Attack

Health care entrepreneur Jan Bruce says her employees are more productive because she encourages them to take vacation and sets aside time every day where they don't use their phones or email.
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The notion that the longer and harder you work, the more successful you'll be is deeply rooted in American business culture. The trouble is, it isn't true.

Leading a legion of overworked, stressed out employees 12 hours a day will get you nowhere close to success, entrepreneur and stress expert Jan Bruce says. Research shows a 70-hour workweek poses risks of heart disease, alcohol abuse, and premature death.

Bruce, founder and CEO of MeQuilibrium, a health care company that produces digital stress management tools for businesses, believes work doesn't have to give you and your staff a heart attack.

Being busy wasn't always so closely correlated with being successful. Bruce says the stereotypical CEO in the 1960s was a delegator who would be "in his office with his shoes off, practicing his putting." But today, the CEO is barking orders to his assistant, running to catch a flight to a meeting, and working on his smartphone at the same time, she says.

The question is, how sustainable is this lifestyle? Bruce says overworking yourself and employees not only creates stress, it decreases productivity across the board. She says implementing policies like work hour caps, off-the-grid time, and encouraging vacation will help make a happier, healthier, and better-performing company.

"There's lots of data that shows when people have time to recharge their creativity, they are far more productive," she says. Below, find out how Bruce suggests you can make your employees work less and accomplish more.

Reinforce purpose

According to MeQuilibrium's data, the majority of employees' stress comes when they feel like their work is unimportant. "The source of stress is often that people don't see the light at the end of the tunnel for all the work they're doing," she says. It is your obligation as a leader to help change their perspective. "You need to help your employees understand how they make a difference at their workplace," she says. "Feeling that you have a sense of purpose and that you make a difference is the single best way to improve not only satisfaction, but productivity."

Applaud vacation

Running a startup usually means you are understaffed, especially when business starts to get rolling, Bruce says. But people need to recharge their minds, bodies, and spirit. The worst thing you can do is make your employees feel guilty for taking needed time off. "When people are taking vacation, or going home, you need to applaud that. I just got an email from my head of operations, who doesn't take nearly enough vacation, saying she is taking two weeks off and I emailed her right back saying I'm delighted," she says. "Employees need to hear you say that, or else they feel bad for taking vacation."

Require relaxation

Bruce says that when larger firms get a sense of her company's culture, they look at her like she's crazy. Her employees get three weeks of paid vacation, they're encouraged to take lunch breaks, and they have time every day where email and phones are not allowed. "It's expensive, but it's worth it," she says. "The reality is that my employees are more productive. My employees, who have always had a culture to take care of themselves, are more connected to their work, have a greater sense of purpose, and deliver more than employees who come just for the paycheck." 

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Feb 28, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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