In an article for Quartz, Brigid Schulte explores the problem of high-stress workplace cultures, and discovers how employees at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are using behavioral science to create better work-life balance.
Tara Oakman knows what it’s like to work in a high stress, adrenaline-fueled, always-on 21st century workplace. A few years back, she was up against tough deadlines, intense public scrutiny, and the pressure of creating a massive new federal program from scratch as director of a team overseeing implementation of some key elements of the Affordable Care Act.
“It was totally crazy,” she said. “Everyone was working all the time, 24/7. It made sense in a lot of ways—there was a lot of work to do—but our people were getting incredibly stressed out. We had a really high level of turnover and morale issues that were, in part, related to the fact that people were working like crazy.”
While Oakman understood the maniacal pace—her team was on a tight turnaround to bring healthcare to millions of Americans—she thought things would be different when she moved to a nonprofit. In 2013, Oakman began to work on programs to improve lifelong health, healthcare and well-being at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She expected a more reasonable pace. And for the most part, that’s what she got. Except that she found herself in yet another work culture where everyone still seemed to work. All. The. Time.