Changes in Work Performance – Factors that Every Organization Should Consider

Professional competence, motivation, work circumstances, management, personal life and health. All of these factors, and many more, have an effect on employee’s performance at work. These factors are dynamic and cause fluctuations in performance. Performance varies from year to year, month to month, changing almost cyclically.

In other words, on a certain level, changes in work performance are completely normal. Often employees themselves recognize these changes. We just can’t perform at our optimal level every single day, throughout our entire careers.

It’s essential to understand that an organization can develop at a certain pace in one direction, while an individual employee’s abilities and performance can evolve in their own, very different, direction. For example, the requirements for a given role might expand, but the employee in that role does not acquire the competence needed to meet the new demands. When this happens, it negatively impacts work performance, as well as the employee’s well-being.

Decreasing Work Performance Has Consequences

As an employer, you need to be aware of your employees’ abilities to perform well at work. Major life events or workplace changes inevitably have an effect on motivation, efficiency and quality. The impact on corporate productivity can be significant, not to mention the potentially severe downturn in the employee’s well-being and happiness.

The main point is that work performance ebbs and flows, just like a professional athlete. They don’t sustain peak performance all year, either. As an employer, it is crucial that you show your employees that you understand natural performance cycle. It is equally important to know when action is needed.

When it comes to modern white-collar workers, a decrease in one’s ability to perform well at work doesn’t necessarily lead to sick leave or other absence. Instead, quite often employees continue to work, but with a limited capacity, as fatigue, pain, illness or other symptoms drag down performance. This can eventually have a major impact on productivity. Depression for example, can decrease productivity be as much as 30%1.

If as an employer you don’t react and take appropriate actions early enough, severe decreases in work performance and the well-being of your employees generate serious and far-reaching problems across your operations. At its worst, you may see burn outs and extended absences. The unfortunate and often severe consequences, both for the organization and the employees themselves, can take a very long time to correct.

Concrete Actions Are Key

So, how should decreases in work performance be handled? Let’s look at a couple of fictional, yet realistic, cases:

Case 1. Mary is a specialist in the IT sector. She has just received more responsibility at work, which she is very excited about. However, none of her existing tasks or responsibilities have been transferred, so her total workload also increased. Mary does her best to handle all her tasks, but she soon starts regularly working overtime to get everything done. She begins to feel stressed and fatigued. Mary’s efficiency and the quality of her work decrease. She notices this and her motivation dwindles.

Case 2. Mike is an experienced worker in the health care industry. He does irregular shifts, which has its challenges, but Mike has so far been able to handle it, keeping work and family life in balance. However, the situation changes when Mike’s family welcomes a new baby. Between the irregular work shifts and caring for a newborn, Mike is unable to get enough restorative sleep. He is exhausted and starts to think about changing careers.

So, what could the employers do for Mary and Mike? In Mary’s case, it would be essential to have an open discussion about the situation. Maybe there is too much work, and Mary needs to hand over some tasks to someone else. Perhaps prioritizing and rescheduling tasks would bring balance to her workload. With this approach, Mary not only gets much needed relief, but she can also gain a better sense of control over her workload. This helps get Mary back on a path towards optimal, even improved (more motived) work performance.

In Mike’s case, the employer could start off by moving him to regular shifts so that he can rely on a certain work (and sleep) schedule. It might even be good to move Mike to a specific day or night shift, depending on Mike’s needs at home. If that is not possible, the employer could consider whether Mike’s expertise could be utilized in some other role. This way the organization would get to keep a valuable employee, despite the changes in his personal life.

Monitoring Lies at the Heart of Corporate Well-being

Since declines in employees’ work performance can have such severe consequences, regular monitoring is needed to be proactive and avoid those consequences. Monitoring is an essential cornerstone of effective corporate well-being management. To secure success, you must ensure that employees can and do perform at an adequate level. The aim is to not only maintain, but also enhance the performance and well-being of your workforce. Taking timely actions if any abnormal decrease in performance or well-being arise requires observation and accurate data.

Utilizing different types of assessments and measurement methods, organizations can monitor their workforce and identify potential risks. For example, with Firstbeat Life company reporting, you gain valuable insights about the current level of your employees’ well-being and ability to perform at work.

Reliable and accurate data is also important for tuning and improving well-being programs. For instance, you can check the actual amount of recovery during work and compare that to self-reported work satisfaction. With reliable data, you can identify the areas of employee well-being that need extra attention – and react before performance drops to the point your overall productivity suffers. With the addition of individual measurements, you can also give high-risk employees the personal support and attention they need early enough.

Regular monitoring allows you to track the effectiveness of your corporate well-being actions. This way you really know if sport benefits, therapy services, organizational changes and so forth have actually had a meaningful impact.

When you are able to reliably identify potential risks, take preventive actions and track their effectiveness, you can accomplish significant positive results – both for your company and your employees.

*1 Woo, J. M., Kim, W., Hwang, T. Y., Frick, K. D., Choi, B. H., Seo, Y. J., … & Park, Y. L. (2011). Impact of depression on work productivity and its improvement after outpatient treatment with antidepressants. Value in Health, 14(4), 475-482.

Corporate wellness is becoming increasingly important for HR and senior management. Download our free guide and learn how to create a proactive and effective corporate wellness strategy.

Firstbeat guide to effective corporate wellness

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