We’ve all heard the catch phrase, “get a competitive edge at work” but what about KEEPING your competitive edge once you have a job! One of the best ways to stay competitive is to maintain your energy level so you can meet the challenges at work. I suggest to anyone who feels overwhelmed by their work load and tired from constant stress of meeting deadlines, that you find some time each day (if possible before work or during a lunch break) to quiet your mind, refresh your spirit and renew your energy. One way to achieve this goal is to commit yourself to participate in some vigorous exercise that you can do at least 3-5 days per week. Releasing endorphins can help you stay mentally tough. Studies show that combining a good nights sleep with a balanced diet and regular exercise improves job performance, time management and mental sharpness.
A study by Jim McKenna from the University of Bristol showed that after exercising, participants returned to work more tolerant of themselves and more forgiving of their colleagues. People’s mood significantly improves after exercising. People who exercise on work days are more productive, happier and suffer less stress than on non-gym days, scientists revealed today. University of Bristol researchers found that employees who enjoyed a workout before going to work – or exercised during lunch breaks – were better equipped to handle whatever the day threw at them. It also found that people’s general mood improved on days of exercise but they became less calm on non-exercise days.
The research, published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, is the first of its kind to prove that exercise during work hours has mental, as well as physical benefits. Jo Coulson, Research Associate in the University’s Department of Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, said: ‘Our statistical results were very important. ‘ On exercise days, people’s mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn’t, with the exception of people’s sense of calm which deteriorated. ‘Critically, workers performed significantly better on exercise days and across all three areas we measured, known as mental-interpersonal, output and time demands.’
The key findings were:
- Seventy two per cent reported improvements in time management on exercise days compared to non-exercise days.
- Seventy nine per cent said mental and interpersonal performance was better on days they exercised.
- Seventy four per cent said they managed their workload better.
- The questionnaire scores were 27 per cent higher on exercise days in categories such as dealing calmly with stress and 41 per cent higher for feeling motivated to work.
- Those who exercised were also 21 per cent higher for concentration on work, 25 per cent for working without unscheduled breaks and 22 per cent higher for finishing work on time.
Feedback from focus groups found that people who built exercise into their workday were re-energised, calmer and more able to solve problems.
Ms Coulson added: ‘It’s generally well-known now that there are many physical and mental health benefits that can be gained from regular exercise
Based on the increasing demands for companies to cut costs and for workers to increase their productivity, basic competency at one’s job won’t be enough to keep your job. Employers want their staff to contribute more to their team (often with fewer resources) while expecting employees to maintain the high-standards for the quality of their output. Considering the “must-have skills” listed below, I suggest workers have more pressure on them than ever to perform at a high level in order to stay employed.
Workers can choose from one of two approaches: First, you could ignore the reality that work is stressful and stick with a familiar routine because it’s comfortable. The problem here is that the status quo for your daily regimen is likely to involve no exercise, an unhealthy diet and over time could lead to compromising your health. The Second choice is you could become intellectually honest about your situation and seek ways to manage your stress; Find realistic solutions to boost your sense of wellness so you can function optimally at work and at home. In my view, exercise can no longer be viewed as a luxury for those elite, disciplined people who want to stay lean and fit. In today’s competitive work environment, it’s a survival strategy that may determine who can endure and who will crumble under the stress.
In Ruth Mantell’s recent WSJ article, Must-Have Job Skills in 2103, she asserts that employers want workers to show greater skills and results. In 2013, she says, workers who want to remain competitive and desirable to their employers will need to do several things better than their co-workers: For employers who want to get ahead, “basic competency won’t be enough.” To win a promotion or land a job next year, expert say there are four must-have job skills:
1. Clear Communications
“…is the ability to clearly articulate your point of view and the ability to create a connection through communication,” says Holly Paul, U.S. recruiting leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting and consulting firm based in New York.”
For job seekers in particular, clear communication can provide a snapshot of their work style to employers.
2. Personal branding
Human-resources executives scour blogs, Twitter and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn when researching candidates, and it’s important that they like what they find.
“That’s your brand, that’s how you represent yourself,” says Peter Handal, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, a Hauppauge, N.Y., provider of workplace-training services. “If you post something that comes back to haunt you, people will see that.”
Workers also should make sure their personal brand is attractive and reflects well on employers. “More and more employers are looking for employees to tweet on their behalf, to blog on their behalf, to build an audience and write compelling, snappy posts,” says Meredith Haberfeld, an executive and career coach in New York.
The ability to quickly respond to an employer’s changing needs will be important next year as organizations try to respond nimbly to customers.
“A lot of companies want us to work with their employees about how to get out of their comfort zone, how to adapt,” says Mr. Handal. “Somebody’s job today may not be the same as next year.”
The ability to learn new skills is of top importance, says George Boué, human-resources vice president for Stiles, a real-estate services company in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “We want to know that if we roll out a new program or new tools that the folks we have on board are going to be open to learning,” he says.
4. Productivity improvement
In 2013, workers should find new ways to increase productivity, experts say. Executives are looking for a 20% improvement in employee performance next year from current levels, according to a recent survey by the Corporate Executive Board, an Arlington, Va., business research and advisory firm.
“When you are at your job, do you volunteer for projects? Are you looking for creative ways to help your organization,” Mr. McDonald says. “The way to really differentiate yourself is to be proactive.”
Companies that are considering adding workers in coming years want current employees to operate in growth mode now. “My clients are looking for employees that have a great ability to understand what is wanted and needed, rather than needing to be told,” Ms. Haberfeld says.
Even hiring managers need to work on certain skills as organizations consider expanding next year. “
This report reinforces that in today’s competitive workplace there is more pressure than ever to stay focused, creative, flexible, and productive; the work environment can be intense and requires more energy and output from the average employee. It’s not surprising that if these increased demands are left unmanaged, they could lead to burnout and stress related illness. The savvy worker will acknowledge that in order to get a competitive edge at work and maintain your “personal brand” as a top producer you’ll need to take better care of your physical health.
With an increased demand for top performance in all areas at work, employees need to take a fresh look at their life habits to maintain mental toughness and a positive attitude. In today’s fiercely competitive workplace, having a consistent exercise regimen, eating healthfully and getting enough sleep is no longer a luxury but it will make the difference between those who can stay on top of their game at work and those who get swallowed up or worse drown from all the stress.
There is considerable evidence that upper management is also concerned with employees’ health habits as it affects their overall costs and productivity. A new study that will be published in the Journal Population Health Management shows that eating unhealthily is linked with a 66 percent increased risk of loss of productivity, while rare exercise is linked with a 50 percent increased risk of low productivity. And smoking is linked with a 28 percent increased risk of loss of productivity, researchers found.
“Total health related employee activity loss accounts for 77 percent of all such loss and costs employers two to three times more than annual healthcare expenses.” Employers have become more cost conscious, (retaining fewer employees and demanding the same output from this group as they had from a larger pool of workers) and thereby are creating a corporate culture where only the “fittest” can survive and thrive.
With increased pressure on employees to increase productivity, workers will need to adopt strategies and new behaviors to reduce stress while increasing overall strength and mental agility in order to manage the ever-intensifying demands placed on them. In order for your mind to operate at its best, your body needs to be nourished and conditioned as stress builds, the mind becomes cluttered with thoughts and assignments and worries and there is little room left for fresh insights. There is no quick fix to increasing your physical stamina and mental acumen. Sticking to a healthy diet with occasional splurges and a steady exercise routine will pay off in the long run in reducing your stress, enabling you to stay focused, and can reduce your anxiety when faced with challenging people.
A good workout can do wonders for clearing your mind and can raise you out of a mental rut. The challenge for those who don’t have a regular exercise regimen is getting started with one. It can help to have an exercise buddy but your buddy’s schedule may conflict with yours allowing for an excuse to skip exercising. Follow Nike’s advice and Just Do It! Trust the word on the street and the medical research that indicates the multiple benefits of exercise. We all have heard this ad nauseam but now the need for developing a consistent exercise regimen takes on new importance. It’s not only good for your health but also good for your career!
During your workout, try to find at least 20-30 minutes when you have no other distractions such as music, TV. Etc. Use that time to allow the exhilaration to stimulate your senses, clear your thoughts and allow room in your head for new creative thoughts. It’s amazing how many times I’ve been able to resolve conflicts in my mind with novel thoughts while running in the park that I couldn’t possibly have achieved even if I focused hours on the same challenge at my desk.
Beth is Founder and President of Get Hired, LLC. She advises students on how to bridge the gap from school to career. Beth is the co-author of From Diploma to Dream Job: Five Overlooked Steps to a Successful Career. Her coaching assists students and career changers to successfully match their needs, interests, passions, skills, and personal goals with the needs of a sustainable industry in a sustainable location. She is a resource for print and online media and offers workshops for University Career Service Departments, Executive Recruiters, Outplacement Services, College Guidance Counselors and College Alumni Associations. See website for more details about Beth’s services www.fromdiploma2dreamjob.com. Beth’s Webinar was sponsored by George Washington University’s Career Services Dept. for their worldwide alumni association: Leverage Your College Diploma, You can follow Beth on twitter @BethKuhel