The Energizer

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

The Law of Diminished Returns Kills Productivity, Profits, and Tragically - Sometimes People

by Eileen McDargh, Chief Energy Officer - Monday, July 14, 2014
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In a recent Bloomberg article, “Vacation-Phobic Americans Donate a Million Years of Work Annually,” (June 30, 2014), writer Ben Steverman commented that the American workplace culture has developed into a mix of job insecurity and sincere workplace devotion which has led to about 429 million unused vacation days per year nationally, according to a 2014 study by Oxford Economics.

American workers do NOT take time off. Not a smart idea. Lack of time off and fatigue results in what I call “the law of diminished returned”. The quality of your efforts and the quantity of your efforts are NOT in direct proportion. How many times did you have to repeat a process, or tried to get out just one more email, hitting the send key and then panicking about what you sent! If you LOVE your work, you will do much better if you are refreshed and rejuvenated.

Ideas can percolate and inspiration might abound. If you are afraid of retaliation when you take your earned (and owed) time off—let your employer know that exhaustion breeds error, double work, and cost. Worker fatigue was cited at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Driving an auto when fatigued is equivalent to driving with too much alcohol.

In June, a tragic accident killed 62-year-old comedian James McNair, who went by the name Jimmy Mack and critically injured three people, including Tracy Morgan Just today, actor Morgan filed a lawsuit against Walmart claiming the retail giant should have known that its driver had been awake for over 24 hours and that his commute of 700 miles from his home in Georgia to work in Delaware was "unreasonable." It also alleges the driver fell asleep at the wheel.

I make no legal judgement here. The point is that fatigue can be very dangerous! Do yourself and your workplace a favor. Take time off. Depending upon the nature of your work, perhaps you might see about instituting Summer Fridays. Take turns covering for each other so that one can take off for a 1/2-day or— gasp!— a full day on Friday. Dn’t fret about the work left undone. Remember, the only person who EVER had their work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe! (And if you don’t know who that is... google Daniel Defoe’s character Diminished).

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Eileen McDargh Keynote Speaker Blog Author

About Eileen!

Since beginning her consulting and training practice in 1980, Eileen has become noted for her ability to speak the truth with clarity, wisdom, humor and compassion. Long-standing clients and repeat engagements attest to her commitment to make a difference in minds, hearts and spirits of organizations and individuals. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Executive Excellence magazine selected her as one of the top 100 thought leaders in leadership and among the top ten consultant providers of leadership development.

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