As the dog days of summer heat up, much of the GTA is slowing down, with one in five employees on vacation at any given time. But it’s no holiday at the office for IT teams who may have to shoulder more of the workload while unit colleagues are at the cottage. Even in summertime, the living doesn’t get easy because as we know, technology never goes on hiatus.
As discussed in last month’s blog, implementing a work/life balance is a challenge for IT specialists –12 months of the year.
In consulting with IT leaders in small to large organizations, I’ve identified several practices that help alleviate workplace stress. Of course, the best plan would be to disconnect from the digital world after a reasonable number of work hours. But I know it’s unlikely that many of us would succeed in implementing such a strategy. As Woody Allen so famously quipped, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
The following more do-able practices can help get you get your working hours under control, and lower stress, no matter what kind of wrench the real world throws into your plans.
1 / Separate the urgent from the important: Our tension, exhaustion, and number of late nights correlate to the number of top priorities on our to-do list.
IT leaders tell me they find the following key question helps them to develop a prioritized, manageable action plan for their teams: “What’s the actual impact of this project on revenue and/or on operations?”
By quantifying the outcome of the project, IT leaders can more readily assess –and rationalize — whether to give it urgent status, or incorporate it deeper into the calendar for the week or month.
Another helpful question to shorten the to-do list is: What’s the greatest drain of energy for my team that delivers the least return? Whatever the activity is, it should either be dropped or at least revisited in terms of how it’s being managed.
2/ Be realistic, not optimistic: You may know that the current title-holder for the world’s fastest computer is Cray Inc.’s Titan, which can perform 17.8 quadrillion calculations per second, or 17.8 petaflops. Still, humans win the race with our ability to process up to 40 petaflops. But make no mistake, we may have the brain to beat, but that doesn’t make us superheroes. Research confirms we are unable to consistently maintain high performance when overwhelmed and fatigued.
To deal with this reality, IT leaders report that it’s essential to stay informed on two counts:
(1) The workload of their team.
(2) The expertise the team requires to deliver on schedule, without risk of setbacks due to having to learn on-the-fly.
With this knowledge, IT leaders can assess the sweet spot – the point at which bringing in experts on short-term contract is more cost-effective in terms of faster execution and fewer errors. (As an aside, we may have to pass the baton to computers in the not-too-distant future. China has declared that it will have a 100-petaflop supercomputer by 2015.)
3/ Ask for agendas of meetings ahead of time: Meetings are typically the biggest drain on productivity in the workplace –with some estimates showing they can add on average two hours unnecessarily to every workday. That’s why many CIOs favour these time-saving practices:
- Review the agenda beforehand to ensure you can either contribute or learn something before deciding to attend. Where attendance is expected, arrange to drop in for only a relevant part of the meeting.
- Pre-book regular meetings with various managers (ie. Operations, applications, outsourced help desk teams) so people can schedule their week.
- When calling meetings, first ask yourself: “How will attendees actually benefit from this meeting?” In other words, heed other people’s time in the same way you want others to heed yours.
- Meetings disrupt your flow of thought and action which means you also lose time trying to pick up where you left off, so keep one day a week meeting free to enable concentrated focus and creative problem-solving.
In interviewing hundreds of IT specialists over my 20 years, I have discovered there is another way leaders, and team members, can stay energized and focused: By caring about the end result.
The research on what makes a productive IT team backs up my finding – people who are clear about their goal, and who believe in it, remain invigorated and don’t suffer the same levels of burn-out.
Regular reminders about why your own, and others,’ work truly matter gives everyone a boost and repositions their hours at the task as an enjoyable part of life, not a detractor from it.
Next month: A look at the newest title around the table: The Chief Marketing Technology Officer
D: 416-847-4962; Check us out at www.bagg.com
Joanne is the General Manager for Bagg Technology Resources bringing over 20 years of industry experience in Project and Solutions Resourcing, Solutions offshore and near-shore for application development and data warehouse project delivery, Information Technology, Engineering, Management, Contract/Full Time Resourcing.
Joanne’s goal is to deliver distinct flexible resource solutions to meet and exceed the requirements of her clients and candidates by understanding their goals and challenges, by leveraging technology and by respecting the intrinsic value of our each person she comes in contact with.
Joanne believes that the relationships developed in resourcing are lasting and works with both resources and clients on long term plans and goals. This consultative approach has enabled her to be proactive in forecasting clients’ requirements and assisting resources with their career direction. To enhance her ability to understand the requirements of her clients, Joanne has enhanced her post-secondary education with Information Technology courses at Ryerson University.