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Should We Adopt France’s New “Unplug After 6 p.m.” Law?

Should We Adopt France’s New “Unplug After 6 p.m.” Law?

How often do you check your work email?

If you’re like me–and a lot of people these days–the answer is too often.

I confess that I check my work email after hours and on the weekend. If I see something coming in that I can respond to at the moment, I do. So even if I’m “relaxing,” I am working. My mind is always at least half-plugged into my job.

That’s why the news coming out of France is an interesting topic of discussion. While the initial headline (“France Outlaws Work Email After 6 p.m.”) is not quite true, it is still a bold statement in favor of unplugging and work/life balance.

Should we, in the U.S., follow suit and unplug after the workday is over? Can, and should, we limit the hours we spend working, either at the office or while thumbing through our inbox while waiting at the post office?

Working smarter, not harder

One of the popular reactions to France’s move was a figurative roll of the eyes. Some folks were not surprised France did this. As the stereotype goes, French workers spend most of their time sipping wine and eating baguettes. That’s why their productivity, at the individual level as well as a country, is so far below America’s. Right?

Let’s look at the facts. The graph below (from Business Insider) shows the average number of work hours per year for a full-time employee in the U.S. (blue), France (red), and Germany (green). Germany is in there because it’s one of the United States’ fiercest competitor in the race for most productive industrial country in the world.

usvsfrenchvsgermany

    As you can see, the United States is currently leading the pack with the average American worker spending over 1,700 hours at work a year. Meanwhile, French workers spend around 1,450, and the German worker spends slightly over 1,400 hours at work a year.

    Notice how the American domination of the “Burning the Midnight Oil” race (they get medals and everything) is recent. A few decades ago, the French were putting in many more hours than their American counterparts, but that has changed with stricter labor laws.

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    This graph is definitive proof that all those extra hours are making the American economy the burliest in the land by leaps and bounds, right?

    Cool your jets, engine. Not quite.

    Look at the GDP per Capita (productivity or output per worker) for the same three countries over the last thirty years.

    GDP per Capita in 1980

    US: $12,180

    France: $12, 214

    Germany: $11,746

    GDP per Capita in 1990

    US: $23,038

    France: $21,359

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    Germany: $21,584

    GDP per Capita in 2011

    US: $48,112

    France: $42, 379

    Germany: $44,021

    While Americans spend nearly 20% more of their time at work than the Germans and French, they only have an 8.5% edge over them in productivity.

    There are a variety of reasons for this: how specialized the work in each country is, the average level of education, etc. But one thing is clear: an increase of work hours does not increase productivity on an arithmetic, much less exponential, scale. There is a simple reason why: we are talking about human beings.

    Unlike machines or software, we can’t go on and on without suffering from fatigue or wear. We add stress to our bodies and minds throughout the day. This is called the allostatic load.

    Being plugged in to work (via emails, calls, or having it on your mind) is wear and tear on your entire self. After a certain point, it starts to affect your productivity. Each extra hour at work has diminishing returns. Fatigue, lack of concentration, and loss of functional memory set in.

    Ironically, not working is one of the most important secrets to doing great work.

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    Research shows that taking an email vacation can significantly reduce your stress and increase your concentration.

    From a University of California – Irvine study:

    “We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress.”

    Taking a work email vacation lets your internal microprocessor cool down. You’re turning off the hum from the part of your brain still thinking about deadlines and memos. Do this, and the next time you re-engage with work, you’ll be fresh and focused, ready to do great work.

    Every time you work into the wee hours of the night, sending emails or finishing a project, you are risking doing poor work. Your body and mind are tired, so mistakes are likelier to happen. If you want to do work you’ll be proud of, you have to find ways of working smarter, not harder.

    Warning: cliff ahead

    Our brains are amazing. They can calculate, visualize, and operate with tremendous power. But they have limits. These limits don’t just affect your productivity, but your health.

    Quite literally, working long hours can kill you.

    A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology combined numerous studies, and found a simple, irrefutable truth:

    “Spending too long in the office resulted in a 40 to 80 percent greater chance of heart disease compared to an eight hour work day.”

     

    “Doing more than 11 hours of work a day raised heart disease risks by 67 percent.”

    Another study review listed all of the proven links between working long hours and your health:

    “[It] shows that long work hours are indeed associated with adverse health, in particular cardiovascular disease, disability retirement, subjectively measured poor health, and fatigue.”

     

    “The most interesting studies show that working more than 11 hours a day is associated with a three times higher risk of myocardial infarction and about a four times higher risk of noninsulin-dependent diabetes”

    This is no longer just an issue of whether you want to do great work, but whether you want to do this to your health?

    The move made in France is bold. It’s potentially revolutionary, and may, hopefully, set the tone for other countries. But it makes you wonder why it had to get to that point. Why did we need something official to limit us to the 40-hour work week when these nasty facts linking productivity and health have been confirmed time and again for decades?

    Maybe it’s custom, or maybe it’s naivete. Whatever it is, there’s no good excuse to ignore it anymore. Ask yourself this question: do you want to do very good work for a long time? If you said yes, then give yourself a break and step away from the smartphone.

     

    How do you achieve work life balance? Tell me in the comments below.

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    Featured photo credit: Chris Chan via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

    How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

    How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

    Knowledge is essential to become successful in life, your career and your business. Without learning new concepts and becoming proficient in our craft, we cannot excel in our chosen careers or archive knowledge to pass down to the next generation.

    But content comes in various forms, and because how we learn influences how much we know, we need to talk about learning styles. This article will focus on how to utilize visual learning to boost your career or business.

    The Importance of Knowing Your Learning Style

    Knowing your learning style enables you to process new information to the best of your ability. Not only does it reduce your learning curve, you’re able to communicate these same concepts to others effectively.

    But it all starts when you’re able to first identify the best way you learn.

    As a college student, I soon figured out that taking online courses without visual aids or having an instructor in front of me led to poor retention of concepts.

    Sure, I got good grades and performed excellently in my online exams. However. I discovered that I couldn’t maintain this performance level because I forgot 80 percent of the course content by the end of the semester.

    There are several types of learning styles known to mankind. To give an idea of how visual learning stacks up against other learning styles, here’s a brief mention of some of the different types of learning styles we have.

    The four most popular types of learning styles are:

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    • Visual learning style (what this article talks about).
    • Aural or auditory learning style (learning by listening to information presented).
    • Verbal or linguistic learning style (learning that involves speech and writing).
    • Tactile learning style (learning by touching and doing)

    But for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on using visual learning to boost your career or business.

    How to Know If You’re a Visual Learner?

    When it comes to boosting your career, business (or education), a visual learner is one who would most definitely choose shapes, images, symbols, or reading over auditory messages.

    I’m talking about preferring to read an actual map when navigating to a new place over listening to verbal directions. I’m talking about discovering that you actually have trouble remembering what your manager said at the meeting because there were no graphs or illustrations to support the points raised.

    Most people who struggle with learning probably aren’t leveraging their best learning styles. The earlier you identify how your learning style can boost your success, the less struggle you will encounter with processing new information throughout your career.

    However, visual learning in particular CAN 10x your career or business whether it is your preferred learning style or not. And here’s why:

    Several studies have arrived at the conclusion that the brain retains more information with the help of visual aids. In other words, images are directly processed by our long-term memory which helps us store information for longer periods of time.[1]

    While some lessons can be performed orally, several concepts can only make sense if you have an image with an explanation of sequences (i.e learning about the human DNA).

    Visual learning does use a different part of the brain and visual cues are processed by the part of the brain known as the occipital lobe.

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    By engaging more parts of the brain during learning, you’re able to have a fuller understanding of concepts and facilitate better interaction with your immediate environment.

    How to Use Visual Learning for Success

    Here’re 4 ways to use visual learning to boost your career or business:

    1. Bring back the to-do list. Then add shapes and colors to boost productivity.

    We live in an age where computers have taken over virtually every aspect of productivity and most human functions. But written lists are making a comeback, and with an endless number of important tasks to complete, having a to-do list of tasks in order of importance can improve your productivity.

    While coming up with a list is initially challenging, adding colors and shapes to written lists that you personally write and manage gives you an extra layer of assurance and boosts aids recall so that you actually get stuff done.

    I have tried this technique in my work as a registered nurse and discovered that adding shapes and colors to to-do lists helps me delegate tasks, recognize where more work is needed, and makes it easy to cross off completed tasks at the end of the day.

    2. Add graphs, charts and symbols to your reports.

    Yes, it seems like more work cut out for you. However, graphs enable you monitor the heartbeat of your business.

    Graphs and charts help you trend your finances, budget, and pretty much any data overtime. With the help of free and premium software available on the market, it has become easier to take plain data and in a matter of seconds, have relevant information displayed in different shapes and images.

    As an entrepreneur, you can make predictions and allocate funds wisely when you’re able to see whether your efforts are rewarded. You can use colors and charts to delegate actions to members of your team and track performance at the same time.

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    And when broken down into monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual goals, graphs and charts communicate what ordinary text cannot.

    3. Effectively brainstorm with mind-mapping.

    Mind-mapping is not new but I don’t think it’s been talked about as often as we do to-do lists.

    With mind mapping, you’re organizing information accurately and drawing relationships between concepts and pieces from a whole.

    Think of a mind map as a tree with several branches. For example, the tree can symbolize healthcare while each branch stands for nursing, medicine, laboratory science, and so on. When you look at nursing, you can further branch out into types of nursing; pediatric, women’s health, critical care, and so on.

    It’s an interesting relationship; the more ideas you’re able to come up with for your chosen subject, the deeper you get and the stronger the association.

    Mind maps really show you relationships between subjects and topics, and simplifies processes that might seem complicated at first glance. In a way, it is like a graphical representation of facts presented in a simple, visual format.

    Mind mapping isn’t only limited to career professionals; business owners can benefit from mind mapping by organizing their online learning activities and breaking down complex tasks into simple actions so that you can accurately measure productivity.

    4. Add video streaming to meetings.

    What if you could double the productivity of your team members by video streaming your meetings or adding flash animation to your presentation at the same time?

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    When you offer video as an alternative method of processing information to colleagues, there is a greater chance of retaining information because we recreate these stories into images in our minds.

    For organizations that hold virtual meetings, it can also be an effective way to enhance performance during if people can see their colleagues in addition to flash animation or whatever form of video is provided during the meeting.

    Is Visual Learning Better Than Other Learning Styles?

    No, that is not the point. The goal here is to supplement your existing dominant learning style with visual learning so that you can experience a significant boost in how you process and use everyday information.

    You might discover that understanding scientific concepts are much easier after incorporating visual learning or that you’re able to understand your organization’s value when projected on a visual screen with charts and graphs.

    The overall goal is to always be learning and to continue to leverage visual learning style in your career and business.

    More About Learning Styles

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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