Federal Coach

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Federal Coach: Keeping the 40-hour work week from feeling part time

(Fox's Federal Coach column was originally published on The Washington Post On Leadership site.)

I recently read a blog that posed this question: Based on recent workforce trends, is the 40-hour work week considered part time for white-collar professionals? How does this play out among the federal workforce? What are the implications of these trends if true? - Two under-40 female Department of Energy employees (GS-9 and GS-13)

Like private and nonprofit sector leaders, federal leaders are experiencing increased workloads that often make a 40-hour work week nearly impossible to keep. The greater expectations, demands and pace of change affect the public sector just as much, if not more so, than other sectors.

Federal leaders and employees are working on issues that directly affect all of us, from shoring up the economy and the financial system to providing better health care, guarding our borders, protecting the environment, caring for veterans and keeping our food safe. In doing so, many are having a difficult time finding a balance between their work and personal lives.

As a result, it’s important that federal leaders establish workplace expectations that enable both their employees and themselves to get their work done while also allowing for time to consistently recharge their batteries.

Based on my experience working with federal leaders, here are a few ideas to help you and your employees best manage today’s fast-paced environment.

Discover what works. To help you better understand how you’re wired, are you satisfied rather than exhausted after a long day? Or, do you need to balance periods of intense work with periods of intense relaxation? Reflect on the times when you most felt on top of your game, and then work to recreate that experience.

Share your insights with colleagues, family and friends. Next, be intentional and transparent about resetting workplace expectations with yourself, your colleagues and family. If you decide to shift your hours in the office, but maintain availability via a smart phone, let your employees know about the change and your reasoning behind it. You should also encourage your team to do the same within federal rules and regulations.

Schedule time to recharge. To help maintain a work-life balance, it’s important that you find ways to schedule personal time to help you recharge. Whether it’s spending time with your family, going out with friends, or reading a good book, you’re the only one who can set aside that time and commit to fulfilling your personal as well as your professional goals.

Solicit feedback and try new efforts. Make certain you solicit feedback from colleagues, family and friends to learn what changes are working and which ones are not. Be prepared to change your tactics based on their feedback while also remaining resolute to your goals.

Posted by Tom Fox, VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service on Jul 29, 2011 at 12:12 PM


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