Intrinsic Motivation: What Doesn’t Work

Physical death may be a rare consequence of a disastrous work-life balance, but the soul-killing workplace is not at all uncommon.

In a recent article written in the New Yorker, Ruth Margalit examines the recent death of Moritz Erhardt, the British Bank of America intern who colleagues said worked a straight three-day shift without breaks or sleep, as a foil to a prediction made by early 20th Century economist John Maynard Keynes. Keynes famously remarked that by the time technology took full force in the workplace, people would require far fewer hours to get work done—15 hours a week, to be exact.

Technology is here, however, and we are still working 40-plus hours, and lack the leisure time kids like Erhardt work double-overtime now to afford later in life. As Margalit cites:

The top ten per cent of earners “have not shared much in the gain of leisure,” Robert Fogel, an economic historian, wrote in 1994. Rather, those well-off people, Fogel noted, were working closer to the nineteenth-century standard of thirty-two hundred hours a year than to the current standard of about eighteen hundred hours.

Margalit attributes the problem to the changing nature of work and of leisure, and people’s expectations from both. She writes:

The answer might have to do with the fact that workplace cultures—including the hours people work—are often set not by workers themselves but by those who employ them.

It seems unlikely that Erhardt was walking around red-eyed with a caffeine hangover and working to the potential that he could during normal hours. The balance between work and leisure is essential for our ability to create, think, and ultimately make waves. Companies like Google have proven that the best way to ensure the success of the company is to meet the health, happiness, and therefore loyalty of its employees with shared time, flexible hours, and a multi-faceted inspiration-inducing activities and opportunities in the work place.

Check back for more on work / life balance as we continue explore the factors that either support or undermine this critical equation.

He Has a Pulse!

More than 100 studies have now demonstrated the correlation between employee engagement and business performance.

This is one of the key concepts behind The Energy Project, which proposes that human beings are designed to “pulse,” and are most productive when they move between activities throughout the day.

The project’s founder Tony Schwartz teaches employers and employees ways to change up activity in intervals, targeting fluid movement between each of man’s four energy needs:

  1. sustainability (physical),
  2. security (emotional),
  3. self-expression (mental), and
  4. significance (spiritual).

With everyone in pulse, the thinking goes, everyone will make waves.

Lure of the Serendipitous Sparks Urban Influx

Workplace communities are the model for entrepreneurially-minded and internationally-fluent individuals to meet.

“For the first time, more people are coming into the city than leaving the city,” mayor Mike Bloomberg says to the New Yorker in a recent article discussing the final months in his decade-long reign as mayor of New York City:

It’s no news that cities are becoming more attractive to people who may have been suburbanites in the late 90s. The draw is the growth of work opportunities.

Cities across the country are growing, pushing out what were once their geographical or jurisdictional cut-off lines, to accommodate people and their businesses.

People in proximity, like adjacent neighborhoods, engender the spill-over of perspectives and ideologies. Sounding boards are created for the bouncing of ideas. This energy encourages employees to extend themselves beyond their conventional thought patterns, beyond even their comfort zones.

Try that in the home office.