You're Working Hard. Are You Working Well?

You're Working Hard. Are You Working Well?

When we launched MatchPace in 2016, we declared ourselves on a mission to help organizations and individuals work hard and live well. And while we still believe it’s possible to do both, we realized that for most people in the knowledge economy, working hard really means working longer. And at MatchPace, we don’t believe working longer is the solution. In fact, it’s the problem.

We’re all familiar with “the hustle,” the neverending drive to work smarter so we can work harder. But are all those productivity hacks, focus tips, and project management tools really helping us work better? Or are they simply ways for us to work more in disguise? 

We just can’t live well if we’re working so much–even when we’re “working smarter”–that we end up burned out. And organizations can’t achieve their goals if their employees are burned out, either.

The solution isn’t to work harder, longer, or even smarter. The solution is to work well.

Shifting to a focus on “working well” might not seem like a major change, but it represents how we think about the work we do at MatchPace, and therefore how we engage with clients. 

As an organization, how do you help your employees work well? By “optimizing the workday.” 

What if your success at work was measured by the outcomes you produce, not whether you’re the first in the office every day and the last to leave? What if your employer encouraged you to prioritize, focus, and then sign off for the day as soon as you achieved those outcomes instead of waiting for the clock to hit an arbitrary time? 

We know exactly what you’d do: you’d get more done in less time, empowering you to pursue important priorities inside and outside of the office. You’d be way less stressed and avoid burnout. You’d spend your time at work actually working, not scrolling social media or surfing news sites or aimlessly chatting with coworkers. This is what we mean by working well: doing your best work, and then signing off and tuning out so you can live well, too.

While boosting productivity and avoiding burnout should be top priorities for every organization, most American workplaces continue to keep their workers chained to the clock, laptops and cell phones long after the traditional 9-to-5 workday is over. Convincing organizations that giving employees a chance to rest and recover from work actually makes them more productive and keeps them engaged over months and years can be a heavy lift.

So let’s get down to brass tacks: how do organizations create values, norms and workplace structures that empower their employees to work well? While by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few ideas:

  • Implement norms around email, such as not sending email (or not expecting a reply) after 8pm or on weekends.

    • You can also treat your inbox like an actual mailbox. Only “go get the mail” once or a few times a day. Don’t constantly have it open and leave yourself set up for distractions.  

  • Clearly define roles and what “success” looks like for each individual, with regular and consistent check-ins

  • Create policies that encourage taking time off, like mandatory vacation or unlimited PTO

  • Consider Core Hours  with specific days of the week or times of the day dedicated to meetings making it easier for employees to schedule travel, time off, or deep work days

  • If your organization allows flexible work arrangement, assign days for being in-office and days for travel or working from home

  • Offer options for effective employees who want to contribute but work fewer than 40 hours per week; many people can still give their full professional effort in less than 40 hours per week

  • Invest in the professional development of your star employees, like paid time off for conferences or continuing education

Ultimately, our hope is that your organization can clarify your priorities and align your mindset and operations with those priorities, all so you can successfully pursue your desired outcomes and unwind yourself from an organizational ball of chaos.

While each of these ideas may represent a major shift in the mindset of your organization around a productive workday, we’ve seen time and again how simple changes communicate value to your employees and give them space to do their best work without burning out. We’re tired of simply working hard. Let’s commit to working well, together.


The Surprising Way to Keep Your Employees Engaged

The Surprising Way to Keep Your Employees Engaged

You’ve likely heard the shocking statistic that only 34% of employees feel engaged at work. That’s bad news for employers, because employee engagement–or lack thereof–is a key indicator of performance, from productivity and absenteeism to high turnover. 

Fortunately, research also points to key ways to improve employee engagement, including giving employees the opportunity to share their experiences at, and perspectives on, their workplace.

We shared last week how important listening to your employees is for keeping them engaged. You’ve chosen an employee data tool and designed your research in a way that helps you understand the experiences of your employees, uncover pain points that might be impacting their job satisfaction, or evaluate if new processes you recently rolled out are having the intended impact. Your questions were specific, relevant, and actionable. You’ve analyzed the survey results and identified key themes from focus group discussions or in-depth interviews. 

Now what?

Do You Know What Your Employees REALLY Think About Their Job?

Do You Know What Your Employees REALLY Think About Their Job?

This month we’re bringing you some valuable insight from our resident data officer, Nicole Steward-Streng. She’s talking all about how to collect employee data that you can actually use–and how to use actionable employee data to help your team do their best work and thrive. If you have questions about anything and everything data-related, shoot Nicole an email at nicole@matchpace.net!

Our employees are the heart of our organizations. They execute on our processes and strategies. They design and develop our products. And they serve on the frontline interacting with our customers and clients. Listening to them helps us understand what they need to do their jobs more effectively. They are, in turn, better able to serve our clients and improve the customer experience. 

We all agree on the importance of employee feedback, but how we collect it and what we do with that information matters. We’re going to share some best practices on how to determine what exactly you want to know from your employees and how to effectively collect that data. Then, stay tuned for our next blog where we’ll let you in on how organizations can actually use that data to inform business decisions. It’s time to stop letting your valuable employee data go to waste! 

Click to read how to use data tools to keep your employees engaged and happy at work.

You're Setting Priorities All Wrong

You're Setting Priorities All Wrong

When searching for ways to manage your time better and get more done, you’ll likely find a lot of talk about priorities. We’ve given our fair share of advice on how to set your priorities and use them to help you focus. But what if we’ve completely misunderstood the concept of priorities, or more accurately, priority?

In fact, the word “priorities” itself is a misnomer. Consider how the Oxford and Webster dictionaries define the word:

The fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important than others.

Something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives.

But these aren’t actually the definitions for the word priorities–the real word is simply priority, singular. And that tiny change makes a big difference.

You can’t actually have more than one priority. Which means when it comes to setting priorities at work, you have to pick just one - what we often refer to as our “top priority.” Instead of a long to-do list of dozens of priorities, if you want to priority-set correctly, your list should be short: just one most important thing.

Keep reading to learn how to set your most important priority.

Make Sure You Actually Unplug While You're On Vacation

Make Sure You Actually Unplug While You're On Vacation

Summer is in full swing! Have you set some time aside to rest? Whether you’re heading out on a quick vacation or have the opportunity for a longer sabbatical, it can be difficult to “turn it off” and truly unplug, rest and recharge. 

We’ve all been there: finally arriving at the long-anticipated vacation destination, ready to kick back and relax, when… “Ding!” The notifications start pouring in, and unless you’re truly off the grid, work continues to pester you and threatens to derail your vacation. And while it sounds like an easy concept, truly tuning out is far harder in practice. So how can you finally “turn it off” this summer?

Reimagining the work day takes a lot of… well, work!

Reimagining the work day takes a lot of… well, work!

At MatchPace, we talk frequently about “reimagining the workday” and “optimizing your pace at work.” But what do those phrases mean? And more importantly, why do they matter?

This question is easier to answer as an individual–we all want more work-life balance, more flexibility at work, and to focus better and be more productive. It can be harder to wrap our minds around why striving after these things benefits an organization, too. Doesn’t an organization benefit the harder and longer its employees work?


Can You Hack Your Way to Wasting Less Time at Work?

Can You Hack Your Way to Wasting Less Time at Work?

Everywhere we turn, from experts on the workplace to the person in the next cubicle, everyone is talking about how to be more efficient at work. We turn to apps to help us increase productivity, we install meditation and nap rooms in our offices, and we rearrange our workspaces to try to help people work their best, all to boost productivity and prevent burnout. But can we really hack our way to wasting less time?

Not according to the research. Every one of us, despite our best efforts, is still wasting far too much time during the workday, pushing our working hours later and later and forcing us to be “always on” even when we’re supposed to be taking time off.

In fact, recent studies show that two thirds of employees spend time on social media at work, and one in five waste an hour or more on Facebook alone each day! But the issue of wasted time at work isn’t just about social media use, chatting with coworkers, or completing personal tasks during the workday. We lose productivity and waste time when people spend more time managing their work than actually doing it.

Read more

The Cost of Overwork

The Cost of Overwork

While the number of hours American workers in the knowledge economy spend working each week has slowly crept up over the past century, studies show our concentration actually wanes the longer we’re at work. After four to five hours of concentrated focus, we become less efficient, taking longer to make decisions and losing sharpness.

8 Ways to Unplug and Recharge

8 Ways to Unplug and Recharge

Unplugging from work is hard enough, but what about unplugging completely? That seems nearly impossible. The pressure to be productive can be suffocating and make you feel like you need to respond to those four emails at a red light, answer that text during spin class, or even finish that level of Candy Crush before bed. This pressure, paired with the fact that in this digital age, we find comfort in constant distraction and disconnection, creates a situation where it is extremely difficult to unplug-- which makes finding ways to unplug more needed than ever.

How to Take Leisure Time

How to Take Leisure Time

Earlier this year, we shared a review of one of our favorite books of 2019: How To Get Away: Finding Balance In Our Overworked, Overcrowded, Always-On World by Jon Staff and Pete Davis, founders of Getaway, a tiny cabin rental company. They dedicate an entire section of their manifesto to balancing work and rest, or what they frequently refer to as leisure. We were both inspired and convicted by our misunderstanding of the purpose of leisure and our inability to embrace rest for the sake of rest.

Can you relate? Days off and vacations feel forced, as if we’re supposed to squeeze in enough “down time” to recharge and be ready to hit the ground running on our first day back. It’s even harder to embrace the elusive “unplugging” on the weekends, when we’re cramming in errands, family responsibilities, and social activities. We never truly hop off the hamster wheel, and instead treat our non-working days as simply days to prepare, well, to work (if we can stop working in the first place!).

The beloved author Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote, “Life was not intended to be simply a round of work, no matter how interesting and important that work may be.” This gets straight to the heart of leisure: whether you call it rest, downtime, vacation, or leisure, this time is intended to be wholly separate from work and have value for its own sake - even if you do find your work fulfilling.

Leisure sounds like something we all want to embrace, doesn’t it? But as always, the “how” is much more difficult. There’s no point in optimizing your workday to make time for leisure if we don’t know how to make the most of our non-working hours. Maybe you feel like you just don’t have time for the luxury of hobbies, or your social life has already fallen by the wayside. Even more likely, you don’t know how to spend more than a few minutes away from your phone, and “unplugging” sends you into a spiral of anxiety. We’re here to help! Here are a few ways you can start to incorporate true leisure into your life.

Remember that you’re not resting just so you can get back to work.

One key to resting well is understanding why you need to rest. Our culture tells us the more we work, the more we’ll succeed, but research tells us otherwise. Your brain eats up 20 percent of your energy, and downtime is critical to repair and restore your brain after a long day of work. So don’t treat rest as another opportunity to do more work in disguise - give your brain a real break by doing something purely for enjoyment, whether that’s reading a novel, creating, or walking outside.

Find a way to truly unplug.

We’ll never really rest if we’re always connected to our work. As hard as it is to turn the phone off and power down the computer, removing the dopamine hit of another dinging notification is critical to fully relax. Resting requires its own set of muscles, and many of us are way out of shape. So even if you need to remove yourself from cell service entirely, do what it takes to practice unplugging and build those leisure muscles. And don’t be afraid to be bored! Boredom activates your “default mode network,” allowing your thoughts to wander and preparing you for sharper mental activity later. As counterintuitive as it may be, scheduling time each day to let your thoughts wander may give you an unexpected edge at work.

Identify regular rhythms of rest and make rest a habit.

Our default mode tends to be working, not resting, so when you first make leisure a priority, it can feel awkward or even wasteful. It’s important to identify daily, weekly, monthly and yearly times of rest that fit your lifestyle. Then, block these times off in your calendar so you absolutely cannot schedule over them. Treat them as just as important as a client meeting or deadline, and stick with them until you regularly resting becomes second nature.

Unfortunately, our society and workplace culture make it increasingly difficult to rest. But making time for leisure for its own sake could be the key to unlocking your potential at work and preventing burnout. Give one or more of these tips a try, and let us know what you discover!



Stop Burnout Before It Starts

Stop Burnout Before It Starts

Are you burned out? If you’re like as many as 60% of the American workforce, you probably are - or at least headed that way.

We’ve explored what burnout is, how it happens, and the warning signs of burnout, but if you’re teetering on the edge or stuck in full-on burnout mode, what can you do about it?

Unfortunately, much of the advice we found online leaves us wanting. Our workplaces are primary sources of burnout, but how many of us can simply up and quit our jobs or take an extended sabbatical? (Though if you are burned out and have the resources to take a break, we highly recommend you do so!) And, as many people who face job-related stress and burnout realize, finding a new job isn’t always the solution.

Yes, we all must take responsibility for the way our personal habits and relationships contribute to burnout. We won’t tackle tips for combating burnout in your personal life here. Instead, we want to address some of the organizational factors that contribute to employee burnout and how you as a boss, manager, or team member can influence your work environment to eliminate it.

Establish organizational values and norms - and stick to them.

One definition of Burnout Syndrome is “psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job.” This leads to exhaustion, cynicism, detachment from the job, and decreased job performance. These “interpersonal stressors” can manifest in many different ways, from micromanaging to toxic workplace culture. That’s why establishing organizational values and norms is key to reducing interpersonal stress and conflict and preventing burnout. This is one of the first things we tackle with clients: identifying core values of the organization, along with norms about how work is done so both managers and employees understand exactly what is expected of them. Establishing values and norms can be a heavy lift, but this important work is necessary to foster a healthy work environment and help all team members do their best work.

Use those values and norms to enforce clear boundaries.

One of the most stressful experiences at work is not knowing exactly what is expected of you. This goes beyond establishing clear job descriptions and preventing “scope creep.” Organizational values and norms are integral tools for helping employees understand expectations, from how to communicate and when to ask for help, to how to track time and when they’re expected to be available and responsive. Establishing clear boundaries around workplace expectations may be the most important tool for keeping employees engaged and preventing burnout. If your organization is suffering from a lack of established norms and boundaries, we can help!

Encourage - or even mandate - taking breaks.

Another key organizational norm to establish and enforce are breaks. Our brains and bodies weren’t designed to be constantly engaged in work, and breaks - whether a lunch break, weekend or vacation - allow us to process information, recharge and creatively problem solve. If employees don’t know when they are allowed to take a break, they aren’t going to take one. And if they are expected to be always “on” and responsive, they’ll end up on the path to burnout. By setting norms around taking breaks, holding organizational leaders accountable to those norms and going as far as instituting paid vacation and requiring (yes, requiring!) employees to take it, a culture of healthy work-rest balance will protect your organization from pervasive burnout and help everyone do their best work.

What values or norms can you help develop today to protect yourself and your organization from burnout?





If You're Feeling Burned Out, Here's Why.

If You're Feeling Burned Out, Here's Why.

It might seem too early in the year to talk about burnout, but the reality is overwork, overwhelm and burnout don’t follow an annual calendar. In fact, the pressures of a new set of goals can drive us even further into the habits that contribute to our growing overwhelm at work.

What’s worse, we often don’t recognize the signs of pending burnout until it’s too late. That leads talented, hard-working employees to throw in the towel or risk fallout from unsustainable workloads and workplace structures - with our health and relationships taking the brunt of our collapse.

We recently talked about the important balance between work and leisure, and how as an American workforce we’ve overemphasized work at the expense of deeply important, restorative leisure time. We’re going to dive deeper into the idea of leisure and what it really means to take a break, but we won’t feel truly motivated to trade working hours for rest and relaxation if we don’t face our burnout epidemic head-on. It’s important to understand exactly what burnout is, how it happens, and the warning signs so we can stop it before our health, relationships and yes, our work, suffers.

Burnout Syndrome, a phrase coined as far back as the 1970s, is a “psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job, [resulting in] an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.” According to research conducted at UC Berkeley, 28% of working Americans are facing burnout as we speak, and that number jumps to over 60% if you include those who don’t self-identify as burned out but exhibit the same signs and symptoms, including:

  • Exhaustion

  • Cynicism and detachment

  • Sense of ineffectiveness

  • Anger

  • Insomnia

  • Substance abuse and addiction

  • Depersonalization of others (often coworkers)

  • Physical illness

Are you scared yet? Burnout Syndrome is real, and it cripples us at work - not to mention in our personal lives. And of course, we can be burned out personally as well (for example, being primary caregiver for children or aging parents or dealing with ongoing marital problems) and burnout in one area of our lives simply feeds into others.

According to Gallup, 67% of employees say they are sometimes, very often or always burned out at work. That leaves them 63% more likely to take a sick day, 23% more likely to visit the emergency room, and over twice as likely to leave their job when they otherwise would have stayed. Yikes! That means burnout has real consequences for organizations, not just individuals.

If you recognize burnout in your own life, your coworkers or your employees, there is hope: by reimagining what we want our workdays to look like, we can structure how we spend our time - and how much of it - in a way that properly balances productivity with our health and wellbeing. A right view of rest and an elevation of leisure in our priorities is an important next step to preventing burnout, which in turn allows us to continue to do our best work without the sacrifice of our families, friendships, and communities.

Are you experiencing any of the signs of burnout? What first step can you take today to step off the burnout hamster wheel and prioritize true rest? We’ll share some suggestions soon!



Is It Time For You To Get Away?

Is It Time For You To Get Away?

We’re bringing you something a bit different this month: a review of the recently released How To Get Away: Finding Balance In Our Overworked, Overcrowded, Always-On World by Jon Staff and Pete Davis, founders of Getaway. We interviewed Pete to kick off our new podcast, You Need To Stop Doing That, so go take a listen and then pick up Pete and Jon’s book if you like what you hear. We did!

Pete and Jon launched their tiny house rental company, Getaway, in 2015 after meeting during grad school at Harvard. Inspired by Jon’s childhood in Northern Minnesota and a desire to truly disconnect from the hustle of an always-on world, they created a new kind of vacation rental company: one where you lock your phone away and hole up in an 8 foot by 20 foot cabin in the woods. Turns out they weren’t the only ones who wanted to get away: they now have a 90% occupancy rate year-round in over 80 tiny houses outside of Boston, New York and D.C.

Tiny houses in the woods aren’t just a marketing gimmick. Millions of American workers are stuck in an endless cycle of “work hard, play hard” (but mostly just work hard) and are starving for a true break. And as we talk about often at MatchPace, it’s time for us to reimagine our workday to restore balance to our lives, not just add more hustle. Pete, Jon and the Getaway team agree.

Click to read more

You Need To Stop Doing That

You Need To Stop Doing That

How many decisions will you make today?

It may seem overwhelming, but you will in fact make thousands of decisions today, from what to wear or have for breakfast, to which route to take on your commute, to how and when to tackle tasks at work. Many days we face even bigger decisions, whether they be financial, relational, or when to quit (or take a new) job.

Simply step inside a grocery store or look at a restaurant menu and bam! - hundreds of decisions, right in front of you!

In our modern age, we face more decisions than ever before. We may be tempted to face these decisions by adding more to our lives: more relationships, more technology hacks, more responsibilities. And that can quickly lead to decision burnout.

Saying “no” is a lost art when we’re faced with so many opportunities to add to our lives every day. But knowing what we need to STOP doing is even more important. That’s why we’ve launched the You Need To Stop Doing That Podcast in partnership with OPX and Work Better Day.

Click to read more

Five Steps to Work Hard and Live Well in 2019

Five Steps to Work Hard and Live Well in 2019

With the start of the new year, we’re revisiting some of the basic tenets of MatchPace and reminding ourselves not just why it’s important to optimize your pace at work - but also simple steps we can all take today to get closer to achieving our goal of working hard and living well.

When MatchPace launched in 2016, we wanted to help people work better so they can do important, world-changing work without burning out and sacrificing their other priorities, like family, health, and giving back to their communities. From individuals to large organizations, we’re learning how to do that better.

If you’ve started 2019 in the same old rhythms and routines, spending most of your day switching from task to task or hopping from meeting to meeting, tired and overwhelmed but unsure of what you’ve accomplished by the end of the day, you’re not alone. Fortunately, taking just one of the five following steps can start transforming your work day and make you more effective today.

Read more

Do You Need Some Boundary Enforcement?

Do You Need Some Boundary Enforcement?

The holidays! A season marked by traditions, celebration, and time spent with family and friends. I eagerly anticipate it every year, and yet the start of December always gives me a bit of anticipatory overwhelm, too.

So many gifts, so many social engagements, a splash of end-of-year reporting and business meetings, and a few family traditions that may not really hit the mark. If I’m not careful, I can end December exhausted. And as I’m continually learning, the best cure for holiday burnout?

Boundaries.

Reflecting on these feelings of overwhelm, I’ve realized a parallel between the holiday season and my own work life: a lack of boundaries, or more truly, a lack of boundary enforcement.

Click to read more

Is MatchPace All It's Cracked Up To Be?

Is MatchPace All It's Cracked Up To Be?

MatchPace officially launched over a year ago, and we’ve had some great success working with organizations and individuals to optimize their pace at work so they can both work hard and live well. But for many people, the idea of creating a work environment that encourages focus and effectiveness so you can do important, meaningful work and achieve a healthy work-life integration sounds like a pipe dream.

We get it. If you’re one of those hanging in there with us but silently thinking “MatchPace isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” you’re not alone!

I’ve heard that exact sentiment, or some version of it, quite a few times. Many people think MatchPace is a reasonable idea, and have tried some variation of it, but found it just didn’t work.

Click to read more…

Do I Really Need To Track My Time? Demystifying Time Tracking

Do I Really Need To Track My Time? Demystifying Time Tracking

Gone are the days of the old pen-and-paper timesheet. We no longer work strict 9-to-5s, and many of us juggle side hustles or run our own businesses where keeping track of our time on the clock means getting paid our due. But even if you are a salaried worker in an office setting, understanding how you spend your time (which translates to your attention, which demonstrates your priorities) is one of the keys to unlocking productivity, cutting back on wasted minutes (or full hours), and walking away at the end of the day confident you achieved your goals.

Not only are there great, affordable tools to help you keep track of billable hours or sort through time spent on different work-related tasks (business development, client meetings, deep work), but after a few weeks or months of tracking your time you will start to see trends in how you spend your time, what you might be wasting your time on, and which hours of the day you do your best work.

But isn’t tracking my time more work than it’s worth?

Click to read more…

How Planning A Vacation Can Make You More Productive

How Planning A Vacation Can Make You More Productive

How do those words make you feel? Giddy with excitement over big summer plans and a chance to relax? Or stressed out knowing that you’re behind at work and it’ll be even harder to catch up now that colleagues and clients are on “summer time”?

Or maybe you’d love to take a vacation - a real, no-smartphone, relax-on-the-beach vacation - but you’re afraid you’ll fall behind at work or end up looking less committed to your job than you coworkers.

Over half of Americans feel that way, with studies showing 55 percent don’t ever use their vacation time.

But what if taking that vacation actually made you more productive?

Click to read more…

What Does Memorial Day Have To Do With Work?

What Does Memorial Day Have To Do With Work?

With summer right around the corner, it’s easy for many of us to think of Memorial Day as a kickoff to the season of BBQs, baseball and fireworks. While spending time with friends and family over your favorite warm-weather activities is meaningful, is there more to Memorial Day than that?

Whether you’re planning for a three-day weekend or will be showing up at the office the morning of Memorial Day, this is the perfect time to reflect on what Memorial Day means and how it affects our workplaces.

You may have noticed we’re passionate about growing and honoring diversity in the workplace, not for its own sake or because it’s the right thing to do (though it is), but because it gives your team the opportunity to learn from differing perspectives and ultimately arrive at the best decisions, directly impacting your bottom line. We’ve talked about moms and honored Black History Month and International Women’s Day, but what about those who have died for our country?

Click to read more…