May 26, 2024

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Perfectionism and productivity are uneasy bedfellows.

The pandemic, job insecurity, and mass layoffs that followed have exacerbated over-performance burnout, leading to a new thought pattern in employee welfare; one that nobody dared utter out loud until now.

What if we only gave 85% of ourselves to our jobs?

Is 85% the productivity sweet spot?

Devised by sprinter nine-time Olympic gold medalist, Carl Lewis, the philosophy behind the 85% rule is that to maintain a balance between excellent performance and excellent output, you don’t need to give 100% all the time.

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This is because working at 85% effort leaves 15% for crucial headroom that prevents workers from crashing through the burnout ceiling.

On the other hand, your employer might think that operating at 85% makes you wasteful, lazy, unproductive or ill-suited to the job.

Nobody wants to pay their workers to phone it in 15% of the time, so, which side is right?

Breaking free from burnout

Firstly, burnout is a real, tangible metric. In early 2022, McKinsey’s Burnout Assessment Tool showed that one in four workers reported symptoms of burnout.

Given that burnout can lead to paid sick leave or stress leave and high employee turnover, it makes sense to settle for a workforce that’s on track for a B+ instead of an A.

A little space for humans to be, well, human, seems an obviously sensible approach. If you need more convincing, the 85% rule has even become a hit with celebs: actor Hugh Jackman is among its advocates.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that if you’re not giving it 100%, you’re in the wrong job. This side of the debate advocates for a career switch-up that will make the pursuit of perfection feel like a passion, not a punishment.

However, there is very little holistic intelligence to this argument, and the giving-it-all approach is more likely to be adopted by CEOs and those who run their own businesses who either cannot afford to take their foot off the gas, or are seeing the immediate reward for perfectionism hit their bank account.

Earlier this year, Thomas Curran, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at the London School of Economics, published a groundbreaking book on the subject, The Perfection Trap: Embracing the Power of Good Enough. In it, he uses a decade of research to argue that perfectionism is a damaging trait with its roots in the darker side of capitalism and a warped value system that belies human nature.

Societal conditioning that leads workers to overstretch to satisfy the appetite for non-stop growth is an external, non-human economic force.

For human beings, being good should always be good enough.

Tired of a ‘growth at all costs’ workplace culture? The House of Talent Jobs Board has opportunities with hundreds of companies that take a human-centered approach

Senior IT Business Analyst, Capgemini, Munich

As a Senior IT Business Analyst at Capgemini’s German HQ, you’ll lead a global, agile team to create tailored software solutions for big names in the industry. You’ll be adept at handling diverse projects, translating business tasks into tech requirements, coping with change, and shaping business models. A relevant degree and solid experience in computer science, strong analytical skills, great communication skills (in both German and English), and a focus on customers are must-haves for candidates in this role. Read more and apply now at the House of Talent Jobs Board.

Software Developer, Tribeca Technology, Sittingbourne, UK

Tribeca Technology is a global IT Managed Service Provider based in Sittingbourne, Kent. The company is now seeking a Software Developer on a hybrid basis to join its small team. The key tech skills you should bring include C#, ASP.NET Core, Microsoft SQL, JavaScript/TypeScript and HTML/CSS/SaSS (Bootstrap), although you’ll receive support for upskilling. DevOps and CI/CD experience is a bonus. Tribeca embraces tech diversity, and you’ll work with the most cutting-edge tools in the software development landscape. Apply for this promising role with a small firm at the House of Talent Jobs Board.

Senior Consultant Forensic and Integrity Services, Ernst & Young, Berlin

Ernst and Young is hiring consultants for its Forensic and Integrity Services team across various German cities. You’ll focus on the battle against white-collar and financial crime, and be ready to support international clients in finance to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, sanctions violations, and fraud. Ideally, you’ll have at least three years of experience in relevant fields and a background in economics or business law. Find out more about this role on the frontline of fraud combat at the House of Talent Jobs Board.

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