Recognizing the Signs of Employee Burnout

One of the most costly and time-consuming expenses a business has to deal with is employee turnover. When the business is small and the departing employee was filling a vital role, then the loss is felt even more. The direct and indirect drain on resources that goes along with losing those key employees can seriously set a business back and undermine its operational stability.

While there are numerous reasons why employees choose to leave, sometimes they go simply because they are too stressed and over-worked to be productive. In this case, if you can recognize the symptoms of employee burnout early on you will be in a better position to address it and make any necessarily changes before anyone walks out the door.

Here are five of the biggest warning signs to watch out for:

1. Productivity declines. If you see a sudden drop in the productivity of one of your solid performers, then it could be a sign that this person is feeling a little stressed or distracted. We all have our off days, so if this happens once and while, it could mean nothing. But, where the drop in productivity is both significant and over the long-term, then it’s something that requires your attention.

2. Work quality declines. Sometimes you may notice that the overall level of productivity stays more or less the same, but the quality of their work diminishes. The number one sign that employees are overworked is when they repeatedly make simple mistakes. If your employee usually takes care of typos or produces clean code or calculations, then you should be paying attention.

3. Absenteeism increases. A key indicator of how happy your employees are on the job is how often they unexpectedly call in sick. Happy, productive employees typically want to show up for work; unhappy employees burn out and take many sick days. So, if your employees are starting to call in sick more than usual, it’s probably a sign that they’re overworked. Work-related stress is a factor that can lead to a number of health problems that ultimately prevent employees from showing up for work and having productive days.

4. There is tension in the air. When your employees seem irritable, stressed, and frustrated or on the other end, a little blue, then it’s a sign that you need to jump in and do something to help ease the tension and unwind.

5. Employees become despondent. Apathy is an innovation killer. If you notice that some of your employees seem apathetic and unconcerned with their work and the business as a whole, then it’s time to step in. When employees are stressed out, then enthusiasm is one of the first things to go. So, keep an eye out for employees who don’t seem to have the energy they once did, and be on top of it immediately. You don’t want their despondency and lack of enthusiasm to rub off onto others.

In short, employee burnout happens- even to the best of businesses. But it if you can learn how to recognize the warning signs and respond to them right away, then it doesn’t have to cost you a good employee.

Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

7 Bad Habits That Will Prevent You From Being More Productive in 2016

Now that the new year is upon us, it’s a good time to reflect on the way we work (and live) and resolve to uproot the negative habits that may be preventing us from maximizing our potential. Some of these bad behaviors are keeping us from being productive; others cause us to work harder than we need to, resulting in unnecessary stress.

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel or totally re-design your life to reach the kind of real, lasting change that will make a significant impact. Sometimes the biggest positive difference can come from a few small tweaks to the way you approach your daily routine.

Below are seven such tweaks that can make you significantly more productive and happy in 2016:

1. Don’t sleep next to your phone. Studies have shown that the blue LED light that electrical devices emit interferes with the body’s internal clock, making it harder to settle down and fall asleep at night and exposing you to a whole host of adverse health effects. Instead, keep those devices far away or shut off and make your room as dark as possible.

2. Don’t go to bed too late. While we are on the topic of sleep, research also suggests that if you want to maximize those sleeping hours, then you really need to be asleep by 12:00. After this point, the quality of your sleep gets increasingly poor no matter how many actual hours you are sleeping.

3. Don’t let yourself be easily distracted. Create blocks of time during the day when you turn off that cell phone, close your browser, and leave social media till later. These kinds of distractions not only whittle away at your energy level and your ability to focus, but they can quickly eat away your precious time, putting pressure on your daily to-do list.

4. Don’t multi-task too much. While multi-tasking may seem like a great way to “cheat” father time by getting several things done at once, research reveals that multi-tasking can have adverse effects not only on your health but also on your productivity.

5. Don’t take your work with you. Not so long ago it used to be that when you left the office your work for the day was done. Now that mobile technology allows us to be constantly connected, it’s much harder to resist the impulse to check email or make work-related phone calls and chat sessions.

6. Don’t check your email too often. And, this brings me to the next bad habit. Even with all the options out there, email is still one of the primary forms of online business communication. It is also a place that can quickly get inundated with unwanted solicitations and other forms of spam. Have set times during the day when you check into your email account. The rest of the time, keep the account (or window tab) closed and turn off email notifications.

7. Don’t live an unhealthy lifestyle. Routinely skipping meals and eating unhealthy food is a recipie for disaster. The same is true for not regularly exercising. While you don’t have to totally overhaul your diet, nor start training for marathons, even small changes, such as reducing the amount of processed foods you consume and taking a 20 minute walk a few times a week, can go a very long way. Taking care of your body will not only improve the quality of your life, it will also help you to better focus and maximize work performance.

So, what are you waiting for? Start the new year with the energy and motivation to climb the mountains you need to advance your business and career.

7 Ways to Quickly Re-Set a Bad Business Day

It happens to the best of us. You get up in the morning and hit your head, or you kid throws a tantrum, or you don’t feel well, or, perhaps you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. We all have those “off days.” While there is a certain level of acceptance to that fact that some days will just be harder than others, at the same time you don’t have to let any erstwhile negativity rule the next 24 hours.

how to turn around a bad business dayHere are 7 simple things you can do to quickly turn a bad business day around for the better:

1. Laugh or smile… even if you’re faking it. Various studies have found that the act of laughing can positively influence one’s mood and outlook. The same is true for smiling– even if the smile itself is fake.

2. Listen to upbeat music. Recent research has highlighted the connection between mood and music. Not only that, but some researchers even suggest that the music you listen to can also affect the way you perceive the world. So, turn the volume up, and if you’re feeling inspired, sing along. It may also help to lighten your mood.

3. Clean out the clutter. Want to regain your focus so you can concentrate on running your business and push those negative thoughts aside? Why not start the day cleaning off and organizing your desk? Even if you spend a mere half an hour on the task, the effect can be significant. In a recent study, scientists found a connection between clutter and a person’s ability to focus and process information.

4. Reach out to a friend. A few years ago, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends, while others made the climb alone. The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill, and the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.

5. Help someone out. Focusing on a giving to another person releases a hormone called Oxycontin that can soothe and calm even the most frazzled nerves. So, start your day by giving a little money to your favorite charity, answering another person’s question, or hugging someone you love.

6. Go for a walk. Need a fresh perspective on your day? Make time for a 30 minute walk. There is a growing body of research that suggests even moderate exercise, such as walking, can significantly boost your mood and general feelings of well-being.

7. Make a schedule change. Is there some task you have to do today that’s making you feel anxious and blue? Make sure you do that task first and maybe reward yourself with a short workday or a longer than usual break afterward. Not only will you feel relief having completed the unpleasant job, but the time off can also help clear out your mind.

So, there you have it. Seven quick ways to boost your mood and brighten up the gloomiest days. Have you tried any of the above strategies or have some of your own? Let us know in the comment section below.

Image credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

What Successful People Do That You Aren’t

Ever wonder why success isn’t beating down your door? Don’t just chalk it up to bad luck. Even if it seems that some individuals may have been dealt an amazing hand in life, the truth is the vast majority of successful people became that way because they wanted it, worked for it, and throughout it all, kept their eyes on the ball.

10 Keys to successSo,what are they doing differently? What’s the secret to being successful in business and in life? Here are 10 things that successful people do that most others overlook:

1. They get up early and make the most of the morning quiet. All you night owls out there, listen up! Most successful people use the wee hours of the morning to exercise, focus on their most important projects, and set their agenda for the rest of the day or week. That is when their minds are the freshest and there is less risk of being interrupted. They also make sure to eat a healthy breakfast. If mornings are particularly hard for you, though, then there are several things that you can do to at least make your day start a bit earlier. If not, then tune into your body to see where your energy is the highest, whether it’s in the late mornings, afternoons, or evenings, and then do what you can get to create an uninterrupted work environment.

2. They choose a work environment that energizes them. While we’re on the topic of work environment, one of the most essential aspects of working productively is how conducive your surroundings are to getting work done. For some people, this may mean having a clean and quiet work space, for others a window with a nice view, still others may prefer to work in a busy, collaborative space surrounded by other people working on their own projects. Again, you have to be in tune with your own rhymes and rhythms to see what gives you the biggest boost.

3. They spend time on meditation and visualization. You don’t have to get into the lotus position to take advantage of meditation. Meditation really just means focus- an inward focus on yourself, your goals, and your place in the world. And, when mediation is combined with visualization it is a tremendously powerful tool you can use to both keep yourself focused on what you want to accomplish and to help you see the steps that are needed to get you there. The most productive times to do meditation are for a few minutes first thing in the morning as well as right before going to sleep at night. But, if you are struggling with it, then here are some fun tips.

4. They spend quality time with family and friends. Successful people know how to set boundaries for themselves in order to preserve their energy, time, and space. This includes ensuring that there is adequate time for loved ones. Not only will this make you feel more balanced and energized, but your friends and family will be more likely to be supportive of what you do as well.

5. They go outside of their comfort zones. Successful people constantly push themselves to acquire new skills and competencies even under difficult circumstances. When they have issues that get in the way, such as fear or real deficiencies, they look for ways to work around them. For example, an introverted person could look for ways to use his or her nature to get further in life- even in a world that favors extroverts.

6. They learn by doing. Successful people spend more time implementing the ideas and knowledge they already have till they achieve a sufficient amount of mastery and less time gaining new knowledge.

7. They look for inspiration. Successful people have a role model that they study. They will often not spend their energy trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they’ll also consider what is already working and then adapt, expand, or improve on those ideas.

8. They track their progress… the old fashioned way. Successful people set goals that are specific, measurable, and attainable, and they take the time to reflect and learn from their mistakes. Writing things down is key. This means using an old fashioned notebook. Eminem keeps a journal. Peyton Manning keeps a journal. Richard Branson uses one too. There’s just something about writing things down, the physical act that creates a physical thing that is not so easily lost among all the other bits of digital data, reminders, and metrics.

9. They spend time with the right people. Successful people associate with people who are likeminded, focused, and supportive. They reach out to connected, influential individuals who are right for their dreams and goals.

10. They know how to handle failure. This is one of the biggest factors to success. High achievers aren’t perfect. In fact, many of the most successful people faced an extraordinary amount of setbacks along the way. The key was knowing how to either turn those set backs into opportunities or know when to cut their loses and move on.

In short, real success is about real work and focus. There is no way around it. So, are willing to do what it takes to be successful? If the answer is yes, then you’re already well on your way.

10 Factors that Can Be Preventing Your Business from Growing

Even though most topics in business tend to be rather technical and dry, the truth is a business is a lot like a living organism. It’s why many organic terms, such as growth, development, and maturity have found their way into the business vocabulary. An implicit aspect of the organic business model is that you have to make sure that your business gets what it needs to survive and thrive or else it will just whither away.

But, how can you tell if your business is being nurtured enough? Here are 10 factors to be on the lookout for that can quickly stunt the growth and development of your business:

1. You’re too focused on short-term gain. At their core, many of the factors below really can be traced back to a lack of long range foresight. Business owners end up eying instant payouts and in the process compromise on their long term gain. Sometimes this happens because the owners are too financially dependent on their business’ performance; other times owners just aren’t considering the long-term ramifications of the decisions (or lack of decisiveness) they are making today.

2. You have no or limited access to outside financing. If you don’t have ready access to funds- whether it’s a line of credit, a business loan, or even a pool of your personal financial resources- then you will have any extremely hard time growing and developing your business. You won’t have the capital needed to cover a cash shortfall and you won’t have the money to invest in necessary equipment, supplies, and even additional workers.

3. You’re not investing enough in your employees. Your employees make your business go round. If your employee satisfaction is at an all-time low, then it will hold your business back in several ways: your employees will be less productive, they’ll be less likely to offer their ideas about how to do things better and they will in general take less initiative on the job; their dissatisfaction will also effectively push customers away.

4. You’re not investing enough in your equipment and furnishings. Your physical assets, such as equipment and furniture, will eventually, become outdated, obsolete, or just plain too old to be put into service. If you don’t make a sufficient effort to revamp or replace those assets that have gone past their prime, then you may be exposing your business to an assortment of added expenses, such as repair costs, down time and lost productivity.

5. You’re not paying enough attention to the competition. There are two main reasons why you will be missing out by not looking at what your competitors are doing: looking at the strengths and weaknesses of these companies and how this is effecting their performance can give you vital information about your target market’s preferences; you can also use the information you get about your competition to help you differentiate your products and services from those of your competitors.

6. You aren’t cultivating customer feedback. If you aren’t actively trying to get your customers to tell you how they are feeling about your business as well as what the overall customer experience is like, then you are missing out on a golden opportunity to improve your business and strengthen customer engagement and loyalty.

7. You aren’t delegating enough. If you want your business to grow then that automatically includes bringing in other people to help you run your operations. These people will take care of the tasks that you have neither the time, interest, nor the expertise to complete. There are several ways to delegate jobs: You can give your current employees more autonomy and input; you can hire additional workers to complete certain roles: you can hire contractual workers for specific jobs.

8. You aren’t reaching out to other businesses and professionals. Similar to the factor mentioned above, if you are not actively perusing a bit of synergy with other business and/ professionals, then you may be missing out on countless, amazing opportunities to expand your reach ( via co-promotion), reduce costs (via group purchasing), and increase your product or service offerings via some strategic partnership.

9. You are not paying enough attention to industry trends. The minute you take your eye off the road, you are susceptible to crashing. If you don’t have your eyes and earns trained on key market and industry trends, then you will be setting yourself up to miss the boat on significant industry shifts and leave a wide opening for competitors to gain valuable market share.

10. You have a negative attitude. Last, but certainly not least, your own attitude can hold your business back big time. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you are putting out negative vibes, if you are cynical, argumentative, and unyielding then rest assured your employees and customers will pick up on it and send that same negative energy right back at you. That is most definitely not the kind of environment that will foster your business’ growth and development.

7 Ways to Stay Connected and Productive at Work When the Power Goes Out

Now that hurricane Sandy has moved on, leaving in its wake a whole lot of damage and lost productivity, we can look at it as a pretty loud reminder that business owners need to be prepared for unexpected interruptions in their work day. One such interruption is a loss of power; it’s something that can strike even in the clear blue sky. But for businesses that rely on their electronic computing devices to be productive, a power out of even a few hours could be extremely costly.

So how can you plan to stay productive when the electricity goes out? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Get a UPS for your essential computing devices. UPS stands for uninterrupted power supply. It keeps your computer temporarily running even if there’s a blackout or other electrical disturbance such as a brownout. UPSs are available at any major office supply store, and they used in much the same way as a power strip or surge protector. Some sockets on the UPS will provide both battery backup and surge protection. These should be used for your PC, monitor, modem, and perhaps one or two other devices you want to protect from a sudden power loss. Additional slots may be available that provide only surge protection without battery backup. But keep in mind that the more devices that are connected, the less time you will have access to this form of backup power.

2. Consider using a UPS with a fuel generator. Another popular backup power option is a fuel powered generator (typically gasoline is used). Since fuel generators are notorious for producing inconsistent energy outputs, you will want to use it together with a UPS so your devices will be protected from any sudden surges.

The major downsides to using a generator is that they tend to be noisy to operate and expensive. Moreover, they are prone to accidents and should be used with caution. Here is information on how to safely use a portable generator from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

3. Have smaller devices ready to conduct essential work. You could ensure that you have a smaller device ready with a fully charged battery that will allow you to do some essential work- ie a laptop, a tablet computer, or a smartphone. If you store documents and other important data in the cloud, then your ability to be productive increases significantly.

4. Have backup batteries ready with a full charge. It’s a good idea to invest in a spare battery pack that you keep fully charged. These “super batteries” plug into your laptop and can provide up to four or more hours of extra power. While they won’t charge your laptop’s original battery, they do offer an reliable option for alternative power.

5. External battery chargers. There are several products on the market that promise to recharge the battery in your phone, laptop, or other device. Usually, these rechargers are relatively cheap and they can easily be placed in a backpack, briefcase, or a small purse. A couple of good examples include: GearPower from IOGEAR and the Mojo Removable Power Card.

6. Power inverter. If you need to use something a little bigger than a phone, such as a laptop or desktop computer, then you may want to consider getting a power inverter. The inverter can be used to convert DC power from your car battery into AC power for devices that are usually plugged into a wall outlet.

7. Alternative energy chargers. If you have access to sunlight then a solar powered charger may come in handy. The problem is that these devices tend to be pricey. A solar-powered battery charger will typically cost from $250 on the low end, to $800-$900, for a higher end device. Power output among devices typically ranges from 10 to 25 watts. From pocket-sized devices to briefcases, the weights of these products can range from a few grams to several kilos. In addition to solar power, many chargers can also be charged from a wall outlet or a USB port so you can use it like a regular external battery charger mentioned above. Some models even sport a wind turbine.