The story of the tortoise and the hare seems to be relevant in today’s workplace. Every manager wants her team to be fast paced and highly productive. In fact, the obsession with speed has gone a little too far and reached a point of absurdity.
The fact is that this is not a healthy practice at all. Companies are now looking the other way and practising ‘slow work’.
The unhurriedness boosts productivity and amplifies people skills, pushing the company towards the road of growth. Not only are employees comfortable in their own skin, but are able to work at a dedicated pace that does not exhaust them.
Amit Das, director HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Co., says, “The speed at which a cheetah and a snail run may be drastically different, but both run at their own pace, which they feel is right, without thinking of being fast or slow.”
No, slow work is not about working at a snail’s pace or everything coming to a halt. Rather, it advocates working at a comfortable pace and not doing a rush job, because the former enhances productivity.
The slow-work movement draws inspiration from the slow-food movement, which started in the 1980s to protest against fast-food restaurants. This later spread to other areas, such as slow cities, slow design, slow living and now, slow work movement.
“Organisations have to be sensitive towards the ability of an individual. managers need to be sensitised and prepared to manage their duty in an engaging manner.”
With people now working from home, following the supposedly ‘flexible’ work model, the truth is that the work hours have gone up drastically. Sudheesh Venkatesh, chief people officer, Azim Premji Foundation, says “Most employees appear to be busier than ever. Digital fatigue is common and what is needed right now is a bit of slowing down, and tackling everyday tasks one at a time, to promote quality and not quantity.”
“It’s easy to glamourise our state of being busy at all times. We must focus on the impact of each action, instead of getting a pseudo sense of making progress by thinking and acting fast on multiple action items,” concurs Das.
Most companies now use fast productivity as a whetstone to deal with crises. What we need is flexibility, in the true sense, and a work culture that can improve the work-life balance.
To promote and subscribe to the slow-work movement at the workplace, we need sensitive managers. It’s true that we live in the world of instant gratification — and online shopping has contributed to this lifestyle aspect to a great extent — but everything can’t be so instantaneous, certainly not at work.
“Digital fatigue is common today. What is needed is a bit of slowing down, to promote quality and not quantity.”
N V Balachandar, executive director, HR, Ashok Leyland, opines, “Organisations have to be sensitive towards the ability of an individual, and for that, managers need to be sensitised and prepared to manage their duty in an engaging manner.”
Slow work definitely requires employees to observe self-discipline, only then can it be successful. Employees themselves need to chalk out as to how many hours they can put in without burning out or feeling fatigued, and that too without hampering work.
Bennett Coleman & Co. or The Times Group has certain innovative practices, such as happy hours, radio silence time zones and recharge days, which help employees slow down their work and promote a balance of mind, body and soul. This facilitates building an agile and engaged workforce.
It is all about progress and cutting steps upwards to the pedestal of productivity. Embracing the slow-work movement will put individuals ahead of the game by building genuine connections with the people around them.
“We must focus on the impact of each action, instead of getting a pseudo sense of making progress by thinking and acting fast on multiple action items.”
This has become even more important now, because people are working from home, with little or negligible social connect. That is why, constant open communication with team leaders and managers of a company, regarding problems, is equally important.
Delegating tasks and keeping track of productive work as part of a daily schedule will largely help to gauge the actual work done.
Many companies are now looking forward to permanently adopting a flexible work schedule. With this comes the necessity to balance personal and professional life, without getting overwhelmed, and that can be achieved only with the slow-work movement.
Recruiters can also benefit from slow work. Taking out ‘alone time’, with breaks in between, and focusing on hiring candidates by establishing a meaningful connection with them can be a good start.
Why just recruiters, even for any customer-facing job, slow work sharpens clarity, with measured progress conducive to actual productivity.