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In 2013, Cambridge University conducted an interview with three of its researchers on hard work and what happens when we do too much of it.

When asked how would they define “working too hard” and why humans continue to do it, Dr. Jochen Menges defined working too hard as putting too much effort into one’s work, day after day, month after month, without opportunities to reflect and recharge.

Menges continues, “working hard can be enjoyable, but working too hard is unsustainable; it saps energy, impairs people cognitively and, ironically, leads to decrements in performance in the long run.”

At Personify, we’re so fond of the saying, “work smarter, not harder,” that we’ve melded it into one of our key core values of searching for candidates intelligently and effectively, not by random.

Here’s how we believe employees can work to the best of their ability while avoiding burnout.


To be truly productive, we must prioritize.

Achieving productivity means looking at your workload and deciding what task is the most important and knowing what you can achieve within a given time period.

Does writing a meeting summary take longer than replying to emails? Skip it and come back. Accomplish smaller tasks that occupy less time and get them out of the way.

Quality Over Quantity

Researchers from HEC Paris, Harvard and UNC argue that when it comes to organizational learning, forcing employees to cram in as much information as possible is not only unproductive, but inferior to deliberate skill cultivation.

The team proposes organizational learning acts intentionally, with educational value placed on how well an employee learns a new skill, versus how many they learn. Further reflection and skill codifying amounts to more accumulated experience in the long run.


As discussed in a previous blog entry, employees’ moods, emotions, and overall dispositions have an impact on job performance, turnover, teamwork, and leadership.

One person’s bad mood can affect the entire company as a ripple effect, meaning the consequences for one angry email could extend far beyond people’s inboxes and impact another person’s day.

This also means there’s potential for good moods to infect a workplace positively. In fact, data suggests that positive people flourish in the workplace, not just because they’re easier to get along with, but because negative moods take up more cognitive energy.

Furthermore, noting research from Gallup, the Harvard Business Review writes,

“Employees report that when they have friends at work, their job is more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying. Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.”


Being a part of a team means effectively communicating with people whose strengths and abilities may be in different areas than yours—and productivity relies on clear communication to get to the point.

When presenting your message, try to parse your thoughts as succinctly as possible. Save time by avoiding assuming the listener will automatically understand.

Verbal communication is critical when it comes to conveying essential messaging. Avoid using email or direct messages in a situation where the issue of intonation matters. Without the verbal cues in-person expression provides, your message is left open to interpretation by the receiver, potentially taking up valuable time to discuss and decode.


Developing a daily routine and using qualitative tracking is key to staying on track and dodging the allure of procrastination and distraction.

We’re big fans of free software tools like Asana or Trello that provide users with an interface that tracks projects and deadlines, while allowing for collaboration with coworkers.

Avoiding interruption, getting enough sleep, and putting down your phone are also valuable steps to add into your daily work-flow.

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