Surge Capacity

Many of us are now half a year into working from home. Is it time to rethink our ideas about productivity? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • According to one recent survey, most marketers (64%) say their productivity during the pandemic is the same as before or better. But hold the high fives.
  • According to another recent study, 74% of marketers are feeling seriously burned out.
  • And it’s not just marketers. The overall conversation around working from home is notably shifting from “this is working better than we thought” to “burnout alert!”.
  • Looking back over the past six months, this progression makes sense. Early in the pandemic, our fight or flight response filled us all with a strong urge for action.
  • The phenomenon is known as “surge capacity”. Our system gives us a natural boost of energy to help us through a moment of crisis. But as that energy fades, burnout can easily take its place.
  • In technical terms, WHO defines burnout as a mix of three symptoms: “Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job or negative feelings toward one’s career; and reduced professional efficacy”.
  • These symptoms are relatively easy to spot in ourselves, but less so in people we’re managing. Key signs to watch for: decreased quality of work and an increase in  cynicism about the job.
  • Addressing burnout is about taking care of yourself. Exercising. Getting enough sleep. Connecting with friends. Doing things you enjoy. Taking a break from the news. And, for managers, encouraging your team do the same.
  • Speaking of common sense, let’s be clear: burnout isn’t productive. So if that’s your goal, you (paradoxically) need to start working less and living more. There’s plenty of evidence that rewarding time away from work can make you (and your team) happier, healthier and more useful to the business.
  • This pandemic is leading many of us to rethink our priorities. Six months in, the time has come to turn this questioning spirit towards our collective obsession with productivity.
Issue #102
Sep 20, 2020

Further Reading