Dec 27, 2008

HR - Give Employees a 24-hour Mental Holiday

Liz Ryan

The stress in many a workplace is almost palpable these days. That's understandable. Managers are under pressure to deliver results, team members are worried about job security, and everyone has one eye trained on the news. Pushed to deliver breakthrough solutions and game-changing ideas, employees are in a bind.

Maybe it's time to give workers a mental bailout. Managers who note the pressure-cooker conditions and their effect on productivity can ease the strain and create intellectual and emotional breathing room for their employees by declaring a Production Bankruptcy Day.

What's that? It's a day when no "real work" gets done. Every deadline is pushed back by 24 hours. No meetings are scheduled. E-mails are allowed to go unanswered, phones to ring, BlackBerrys to chirp.

Employees still show up, but they use their time to dig out, reorganize, and de-clutter their workstations and their minds. They also gather to brainstorm, to talk about everything and nothing, and generally restart the rat-race clock with a deep breath and some fruitful (and normally impossible) thinking.

Offer prizes for the most unusual item uncovered in the group cleaning (e.g., an old floppy disk or a dog bone), most industrial-size garbage cans filled by an employee, or the most colorful filing system. Bring whimsical, inexpensive prizes and have fun awarding them throughout the day.

Tell workers it's O.K. to do things the old-fashioned way that day. Encourage them to write notes, make phone calls, and think about reducing the electronic information overload when they get back to "normal." This is a good time for people to rethink their habits and start new ones. That could mean fewer e-mails and more phone calls, fewer recipients on e-mail lists, and walking down the hall to resolve an issue instead of hitting "reply" to the 500th e-mail of the morning.

Is your team in need of a bailout? Are you prepared to declare Production Bankruptcy Day to get the mental juices flowing and give burnt-out workers a break and a battery charge? Click here for ideas to make your no-production day as productive as possible.

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