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Your "A" game starts with "Z"

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 5/04/2016 Ellyn Shook

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Thinking about the future workforce is a top priority in my role. When speaking with clients and colleagues, it's clear organizations around the world are grappling with how to be faster, better and smarter in this time of high-velocity change. We're searching for ways to be more innovative when the world's problems are getting increasingly complex. Individuals are seeking balance in an environment where technology has enabled our workday to essentially never end.

Because people are at the heart of the digital revolution, we need to get hyper-personal in how we face these challenges and unlock potential, one human being at a time.

What can individuals do?

A game-changer for me was reading Arianna Huffington's book, Thrive, a few years ago. I found the Third Metric to be a roadmap to unlock high performance within myself - both at work and home.

As the complexities of my role as CHRO grew, I found a few bad habits start to creep back in. One particular area that took a hit was my ability to disconnect from technology and get a good night's sleep. My smartphone was keeping both me and my husband up at night. Having dinner with Arianna one evening, my husband "outed me," and I recommitted to sleep - and traded in my smartphone for a flip phone in the evening to help me disconnect.

I can say without a doubt that a good night's sleep is essential for my own personal fulfillment and best performance on the job. My decision-making ability, creativity and capacity to really be present increased significantly. This is no coincidence. The Center for Creative Leadership shares research that shows a clear link between leadership effectiveness and sleep because REM sleep in particular boosts memory, decision-making, attitude, innovation and creativity throughout the whole day. As individuals, it's time to reclaim this basic physiological need so vital to our well-being and overall effectiveness.

What can organizations do?

In her new book, Sleep Revolution, Arianna writes, "Given how much time we spend working-- even when we are not physically at work-- it's no surprise that work and sleep are so intricately connected. Anything that affects one affects the other. Indeed, work is the number-one reason people cut back on sleep. The truth is many companies have more flexibility than they realize."

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technology brings tremendous promise and opportunity, but it's also out of sync with how humans perform best. We aren't machines. We need downtime to function at high levels. It's my job to think about the well-being of Accenture's employees. We live a "people first" culture - and know that to achieve our mission of improving the way the world works and lives, we must improve the way our people work and live. At Accenture, we are on a journey to crack the code on engaging the whole person in a way that's uniquely human in the digital age.

We are beginning to gather insights on what is boosting and draining our employees' energy so we can focus on best practices, policies and culture shifts to help people flourish in this new era of work. We are also continuing our collaboration with Thrive Inc., building on the Thrive e-course we offered to 55,000 employees last year to further embed those principles into our organization. Physical well-being, including sleep and helping people to disconnect and recharge, will be important priorities.

Every person reading this, particularly those in supervisory roles, also has a tremendous opportunity to lead by example. Do you leave your work behind, or are you contributing to a 24/7 work environment - sending emails and expecting replies well beyond normal work hours? Do you work while on vacation? Encourage employees to take time off? Are you offering personal control of work schedules and breaks during the day to recharge? Are you respectful of different time zones when scheduling meetings? Are you wearing 4-5 hours of sleep as a badge of honor? Do you know what your employees need to perform their best? Are you asking for what you need?

For most of these, you don't need company policy to prompt changes. Seize the opportunity to make a difference for yourself and your team to move from a work culture of depletion to one of replenishment, starting with a good night's sleep.

You can find your "A" game by starting with "Zzz." Join the #SleepRevolution and unlock your full potential.

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