Fatigue and Complacency: The Bane of Inspiration and Innovation

by Andy Heikkila

Fatigue and Complacency: The Bane of Inspiration and Innovation

Oftentimes, an entrepreneur or an employee’s greatest strength also acts against them as their greatest weakness. While this duality isn’t always easily expressed, nowhere is it more apparent than in the budding, overzealous worker who burns bright, and then burns out.

Workplace fatigue is a more persistent problem in the global economy than you might realize, leading to complacency and a lack of employee motivation. These two things (fatigue and complacency) represent the bane of inspiration and innovation, and give rise to toxic office culture and disengaged employees. According to Villanova University’s online resources, these very employees will cost companies more than $2,000 per employee per year and represent 70 percent of the workforce across varying industries and sectors.

So how does one protect themselves and their workforce from burning out and suffering the woes of demotivation?

The Sacred Art of Balance

It starts with work-life balance. Unfortunately, new workplace trends have seen the walls between work and the rest of life eroding. For the average employee, this is a chosen lifestyle and is not the type of decision made because a results-driven manager is demanding it. Instead, it’s chosen because companies are allowing their workers to telecommute, and these employees are either poorly managing their time or want simply to be competitive in the virtual workplace.

The JustWorks business blog, in their piece on how to define work-life balance, use this example to describe the negative side of unbalanced work-life:

“Unlimited vacation policies often illustrate the darker side of work-life integration. Under these policies, employees are ostensibly free to take as much time off work as they need in order to live a fulfilling life. However, this causes employees to either not take enough vacation since they don’t feel they ‘own’ it or be more reluctant to fully disconnect from work while relaxing at home or on vacation.”

For entrepreneurs, the attraction toward an “always on-call” attitude about work is more understandable but still no more healthy. Sure, they’ll likely always be the person on-call if there’s an emergency situation, but that doesn’t mean that they should always be on-call, because they risk burnout in exactly the same way a “regular” employee would.

Defining clear boundaries is the first step toward a better work-life balance. Setting manageable and clear daily goals is important, as is realizing that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” balance. As long as you’re not showing negative signs associated with being off-balance, you’re good.

Sleep & Attitude

Oftentimes, when overworked or burnt out, employees and managers find themselves losing sleep and drowning in poor attitudes. In fact, HBR just published research showing that sleep deprivation has a compounding effect on your attitude about work.

“We start from the premise that sleep deprivation would make leaders and followers experience more negative emotions at work (in the form of hostility),” write Cristiano Guarana and Christopher M. Barnes. “You can probably easily remember a time in which you had a short night of sleep and had a bit of a short temper at work the next day. This is a very common experience and is largely driven by the fact that sleep deprivation undermines the parts of your brain involved in regulating emotions.”

This is apparently such a problem that, many companies are beginning to adopt a nap at work policy, with over 60 million Americans reporting having dealt with insomnia in the last year, according to Nectar.

Whether or not you’re suffering from sleep deprivation, your attitude is something you can completely control about work. The trick is to recognize whether or not a poor attitude is accelerating your feelings of burnout or you have a poor attitude because you’re feeling burnt out. Either way, the only thing you can do is make a change.

Overdue for Change?

If you’ve found that your organization is suffering from a lack of inspiration and innovation, chances are you need a little change! There’s no telling exactly what is going to work and what isn’t, but you should start by sussing out your organization’s weak points as well as points of business failure. Work from there to address problems and don’t be afraid to try anything new. It may not work, but it’s better than wallowing in failure.

On the other hand, maybe it’s not your organization, but is indeed YOU who needs a little change in your life. Maybe you’ve gotten so good at your job that you need new challenges. Maybe you’re an employee wondering what your career as your own boss might look like. Maybe you founded your company wearing one hat but have seen so much change that it’s hardly the same job you fell in love with.

Either way, one of the only ways to work yourself out of innovation fatigue and complacency is change. It sounds so simple, but it can be hard to instigate. Nevertheless, if this sounds like you, change it up! Now! There’s no reason to let the last bits of motivation wilt away in yourself or in any organization.

Believe in yourself, and don’t become so complacent that you stop moving completely — that’s truly the only way to lose.

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Andrew HeikkilaAndrew Heikkila, a tech enthusiast, and writer from Boise, Idaho, and a frequent contributor to Innovation Excellence. He also writes for Tech Crunch. You can follow him @AndyO_TheHammer

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