Why we hate to work so much

Yahoo Finance

Unhappy at your job? Do you feel underappreciated and overworked? You’re far from alone – 70% of U.S. employees say they do not feel “engaged” at work according to a 2013 Gallup poll. Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, a firm that works with organizations and Fortune 500 companies to improve employee morale and performance, tells Yahoo Finance that this workplace phenomenon is happening across the globe.

Employees are demoralized and discouraged because their four core needs are not being met:

  • Physical (“opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work”)
  • Mental (“being able to focus on the most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done”)
  • Emotional (“feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions”)
  • Spiritual (doing what they enjoy most and feeling connected to a higher purpose at work”)

This employee-employer trend will likely continue for the foreseeable future, he notes.

“Employers are doing themselves a huge disservice by not better meeting the employees' needs,” Schwartz says in the video above. “[Employers] need to lift the burden of intense and relentless demand...we need a conscious kind of capitalism.”

Employees are working harder than ever these days as companies continue to operate with a leaner workforce post-financial crisis. Longer hours, added responsibilities and the pressure to be available at all times has become the new normal for millions of Americans. Smaller staffs have helped companies lower their operating expenses but few workers are seeing the gains; real average hourly earnings are falling.

The Energy Project, which is based in Yonkers, N.Y., has more than 60 clients including Google, Unilever, Facebook, Alcoa, Coke, Whole Foods, eBay, Sandoz and Nestle. Schwartz says his firm “has yet to come across a Fortune 500 company that is systematically and successfully meeting the four core needs of employees.” Schwartz applies the lessons he teaches to C-Suite executives at The Energy Project – employees are given five weeks of vacation in their first year, six weeks in the second year – and he forbids his workers from answering emails in the evenings and on weekends.

We're a living laboratory of what we're preaching,” he explains. “And we've doubled our profits for four years consecutively.”

Plenty of vacation days are just one part of Schwartz’s theory; he also wants employees to learn how to work very intensely for short periods of time – no more than 90 minutes – and then take a break.

“The best way to produce is to not work continuously,” he notes. “You'll get more done in less time in a sustainable way.”

Earlier this month Google’s Larry Page threw his support behind a four-day workweek.

"Most people like working, but they'd also like to have more time with their family or to pursue their own interests," he said.

Schwartz agrees -- somewhat. “The value you create is not the number of hours you put in,” he argues.

The fact that so many major companies are rethinking how employees are treated is encouraging – but there are millions of workers who are still disgruntled, putting in long hours as they share their tiny cubicles with a colleague (or two).

“When employers meet those [core] needs, employees perform better for longer and more happily,” Schwartz says.

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