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.