I arrived in Davos several hours ago, amid daunting traffic, driving snow, and intense security, to participate in my first World Economic Forum.
Honestly, I'm kind of amazed to be here.
Nine years ago, when I launched The Energy Project during an economic boom, it was nearly impossible to find senior leaders open to the idea that demand was exceeding people's capacity, and that it was critical to the bottom line to teach employees new ways to manage their energy more skillfully.
Today, there is a dawning recognition among leaders I meet across the corporate world — as well as in schools and hospitals and government — that we're in an accelerating energy crisis, both personal and organizational.
The way we're working isn't working.
Employees around the world are working longer hours, hunkering down at their desks answering emails, or attending back to back meetings, and spending less time thinking deeply, taking care of themselves and living the rest of their lives.
Across organizations, nearly every survey suggests that the vast majority of employees don't feel fully engaged at work, valued for their contributions, or freed and trusted to do what they do best. Instead, they feel weighed down by multiple demands and distractions and they often don't derive much meaning or satisfaction from their work.
That's a tragedy for millions of people and a huge lost opportunity for organizations.
What excites me is that we may have reached a turning point. It's not so surprising when the most progressive and forward-thinking companies lead the way. Our pioneering clients include Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Apple, Intel, and Ebay. But more recently, we've also begun to work with more traditional companies such as Coke and Bristol Meyers Squibb.
The fact that I got invited to Davos is perhaps the most important indicator that the mainstream is ready to address these issues.
Tomorrow, for example, I'll be facilitating a workshop that asks the question "How can organizations build more creative, engaging and energizing workplaces?" I'll be joined by five CEOs, among them George Halvorson, who heads the health care provider Kaiser Permanente, Vincent Forlenza who runs Becton Dickinson, the pharmaceutical company, and Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, the design and innovation firm.
Over the course of the rest of this week, there are a dozen other panels on similar topics. Dan Goleman, for example, is leading a panel on emotional intelligence, and Mehmet Oz is running one called "Preventing Burnout," which includes two leading experts on meditation.
In a wonderful piece of perversity, the burnout session is being held from 8 to 10 p.m. on Friday night. Davos is notorious for days that begin early, end late, and don't include much sleep.
I don't kid myself that the super-charged CEOs and world leaders who attend this event are going to wake up overnight to the recognition that rest and renewal and doing one thing at a time are not only healthy practices, but also fuel more sustainable performance.
I'm convinced there is a potential win-win in all this for organizations and for the people they employ. It's built around creating a new kind of value exchange.
Rather than trying to forever get more out of their employees, organizations are better served by investing in better meeting their people's core needs — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual — so they're freed, fueled, and inspired to bring more of themselves to work every day.
Put simply, more satisfied and engaged employees perform better. In a Towers Watson study of some 90,000 employees across eighteen countries, companies with the most engaged employees reported a 19 percent increase in operating income, and a 28 percent growth in earnings per share. Companies whose employees had the lowest level of engagement had a 32 percent decline in operating income, and an 11 percent drop in earnings.
My goal this week is to begin to collaborate with some of the world's top influencers to launch a real conversation about transforming the workplace — and to win some converts.
I'll be sharing my experience at Davos on our website , and I'll report back here on what I've learned next week. In the meantime, please share your thoughts and insights. Together, let's change the way the world works.
Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of "Be Excellent at Anything."