Worker Abuse – long hours, high stress, fear & Jeff Bezos

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace – The New York Times

Jeff Bezos and the Amazon Way – The New York Times

Amazon — and, to be sure, any number of other companies as well — has taken this idea to its logical extreme: Bring people in, shape them in the Amazon style of confrontation and workaholism, and cast them aside when they have outlived their usefulness.

Above is example of the “Kleenex Method” of employment

Why Jeff Bezos Should Care More for Amazon’s Employees – The New York Times

As I wrote at the time, employees who take a break to renew every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus compared with those who took no breaks during the day, or just one. Those who took more breaks also reported a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively. Employees who felt encouraged by their supervisors to take renewal breaks reported a nearly 100 percent higher loyalty to their employer.

Fear may have an even more insidious impact than fatigue on performance. The experience of fear arouses the sympathetic nervous system and the “fight or flight” response, which progressively shuts down the prefrontal cortex, and in turn our ability to think rationally, reflectively and creatively.

In perhaps his most famous study, the renowned performance researcher K. Anders Ericsson found that the best violinists practice in intervals no longer than 90 minutes at a time, and then take a break. They also take a nap most afternoons and sleep an average of 8.5 hours out of every 24, compared with the seven or fewer hours that the average American sleeps. In short, they rest far more and perform far better than most of us do.

Why Amazon May Take a Page From Walmart’s Labor Playbook – The New York Times

The Bad Behavior of Visionary Leaders – The New York Times

Data-Crunching Is Coming to Help Your Boss Manage Your Time – The New York Times

Escalating Demands at Work Hurt Employees and Companies – The New York Times

It’s Not the Hours We Work, but the Energy We Put Into Them – The New York Times

Reflections on Stress and Long Hours on Wall Street – The New York Times

The 24/7 Work Culture’s Toll on Families and Gender Equality – The New York Times–24–7-work-cultures-toll-on-families-and-gender-equality.html

The researchers said that when they told the consulting firm they had diagnosed a bigger problem than a lack of family-friendly policies for women — that long hours were taking a toll on both men and women — the firm rejected that conclusion. The firm’s representatives said the goal was to focus only on policies for women, and that men were largely immune to these issues.

Why You Hate Work – The New York Times

We often ask senior leaders a simple question: If your employees feel more energized, valued, focused and purposeful, do they perform better? Not surprisingly, the answer is almost always “Yes.” Next we ask, “So how much do you invest in meeting those needs?” An uncomfortable silence typically ensues.

How to explain this odd disconnect?

The most obvious answer is that systematically investing in employees, beyond paying them a salary, didn’t seem necessary until recently. So long as employees were able to meet work demands, employers were under no pressure to address their more complex needs. Increasingly, however, employers are recognizing that the relentless stress of increased demand — caused in large part by digital technology — simply must be addressed.

Recognizing the value of intermittent rest, we persuaded this firm to allow one group of accountants to work in a different way — alternating highly focused and uninterrupted 90-minute periods of work with 10-to–15-minute breaks in between, and a full one-hour break in the late afternoon, when our tendency to fall into a slump is higher. Our pilot group of employees was also permitted to leave as soon as they had accomplished a designated amount of work.

With higher focus, these employees ended up getting more work done in less time, left work earlier in the evenings than the rest of their colleagues, and reported a much less stressful overall experience during the busy season. Their turnover rate was far lower than that of employees in the rest of the firm. Senior leaders were aware of the results, but the firm didn’t ultimately change any of its practices. “We just don’t know any other way to measure them, except by their hours,” one leader told us. Recently, we got a call from the same firm. “Could you come back?” one of the partners asked. “Our people are still getting burned out during tax season.”

Partly, the challenge for employers is trust. For example, our study found that employees have a deep desire for flexibility about where and when they work — and far higher engagement when they have more choice. But many employers remain fearful that their employees won’t accomplish their work without constant oversight — a belief that ironically feeds the distrust of their employees, and diminishes their engagement.

A truly human-centered organization puts its people first — even above customers — because it recognizes that they are the key to creating long-term value. Costco, for example, pays its average worker $20.89 an hour, Businessweek reported last year, about 65 percent more than Walmart, which owns its biggest competitor, Sam’s Club. Over time, Costco’s huge investment in employees — including offering benefits to part-time workers — has proved to be a distinct advantage.

Costco’s employees generate nearly twice the sales of Sam’s Club employees. Costco has about 5 percent turnover among employees who stay at least a year, and the overall rate is far lower than that of Walmart. In turn, the reduced costs of recruiting and training new employees saves Costco several hundred million dollars a year. Between 2003 and 2013, Costco’s stock rose more than 200 percent, compared with about 50 percent for Walmart’s. What will prompt more companies to invest more in their employees?

Pain is one powerful motivator. Often companies seek out our services when they’ve begun losing valued employees, or a C.E.O. recognizes his own exhaustion, or a young, rising executive suddenly drops dead of a heart attack — a story we’ve been told more than a half dozen times in just the past six months.

In a numbers-driven world, the most compelling argument for change is the growing evidence that meeting the needs of employees fuels their productivity, loyalty and performance. Our own experience is that more and more companies are taking up this challenge — most commonly addressing employees’ physical needs first, through wellness and well-being programs. Far less common is a broader shift in the corporate mind-set from trying to get more out of employees to investing more in meeting their needs, so they’re both capable of and motivated to perform better and more sustainably.

The energy of leaders is, for better or worse, contagious. When leaders explicitly encourage employees to work in more sustainable ways — and especially when they themselves model a sustainable way of working — their employees are 55 percent more engaged, 53 percent more focused, and more likely to stay at the company, our research with the Harvard Business Review found.

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