Blog: Employee Productivity and Work-life Harmony — What Did Apple Miss On?

Life @ Work

Employee Productivity and Work-life Harmony — What Did Apple Miss On?

How many times have you compromised on your work-life balance? Has your company made unreasonable demand on your time?
Employee Productivity and Work-life Harmony — What Did Apple Miss On?

This is what the Welcome Letter from Apple reads:

There’s work and there’s your life’s work. The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end. They want their work to add up to something. Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else. Welcome to Apple.

It must be stated that it is very impressive. How many companies write such awesome motivational letters to its new employees? But Apple does! Apple has created an aura which makes every technical engineer to want to work at Apple.

However, in the light of such a high impression which Apple has created for itself, it came as a surprise when recently a former Apple employee, Ben Farrell, wrote a detailed blog post on why he quit Apple. Farrell, who worked at Apple’s Sydney office, made some very strong remarks against Apple’s work culture and the extreme demands made on its employees.

Farrell complains about 16 hours work days, endless meetings, lack of respect for personal emergencies like sickness or family issues, inconsistent and moody management and so on.

The facts of the case are not fully known, but we have all heard of or maybe worked with managers and organizations that make unreasonable demands on the employees’ time.

As part of a company which has created a solution that helps people become more productive through mindful work techniques instead of brute force long hours, such incidents are disturbing. It prompts a question – is it a problem with the company culture, managers, or are we as employees not able to understand the importance of work-life balance? Probably it is a combination of all these factors.

Here are a few things that can help build a more engaged workforce thatworks smart and not just hard:

Understand your employee motivation

The performance of an employee depends a lot on his/her motivation for work. Most of us aspire for a workplace that combines challenging work, with opportunities and time for learning and self-development, and where one is paid reasonably well. One may be a new graduate willing to spend long hours at work, or a working mother who needs to pick up her child from the nursery on time. Aligning with the employees’ motivations plays a very vital role in keeping them engaged and productive.

Communicate well

One of the items which Farrell mentions in the blog post is that his manager communicated very rudely with him. Aggressive chats, harassing texts and rude voicemails are all mentioned in the post. While newsletters, chats and memos are good and commonly used ways to communicate with employees, they cannot replace the value of regular face to face conversations. Share the organization’s vision with your team, and don’t forget to appreciate their recent contributions towards those goals.

Show kindness and support work-life balance

Be sensitive to the fact that sometimes personal things can take priority over professional matters. In case of Farrell, he mentions that he being away from a business trip because of the hospitalization of his wife was regarded as ‘performance issue’ and he was emailed an ‘urgent’ presentation for completion when she was hospitalized. Empathy at such times may well be appreciated more than that token thank you email.

Cut down on meetings

Farrell felt that the Sunday night meetings which they had to attend were harassing. Well, Sunday meetings are surely unusual, but close to 50% of working professionals feel that meetings are one of the biggest time wasters in office. Steve Jobs was known for conducting super productive meetings – with as few people as required, one person responsible for each item on the agenda, and not allowing formal presentations. Managers today are finding that a daily huddle with less frequent long meetings, are way more effective than extended sessions.

Offer flexibility

Spending hours and hours stuck in traffic jam to get to work is brutal. Allow your employees to occasionally work from home as per their convenience – they will not only be happier but also be more productive by saving time and energy on the commute. Back this up with a tool that helps them quantify their effort, and assure them that working from home did not compromise their professional obligations.

In the Zone time

Apple is known for building disruptive technologies and setting high standards of excellence. How about disrupting the typical work day? Decide couple of fixed time slots or even 1-2 days in the week that are reserved for ‘In the Zone’ time? This is when the team or even the entire organization avoids all distractions, emails and meetings to focus on the cool stuff or maybe just the important work that has to get done on time?

It is not fair to conclude anything from one person’s blog. But Farrell’s post did make me think how managers and organizations can contribute in engaging the employees and helping them strike a better work-life harmony.

Disclaimer: This is a contributed post. The statements, opinions and data contained are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of People Matters and the editor(s).

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Topics: Life @ Work, Watercooler

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