BEING DEAD IS BAD FOR BUSINESS

Consider this your wake up call.

Yes, I’m talking to you.. the person reading this. If you’re working right now, the likelihood is that you’re working TOO HARD.

“What? ‘TOO HARD? What’s that Jo?”
Well it’s when you work yourself into the ground, for no real good reason. Its when you work really hard and don’t feel like you’ve achieved anything. And its when you’re working faster and harder but less effectively.

You see many of you right now are tired. Tired of work, tired even of life. Why? Because you are all working TOO HARD.

Working hard is fine, WHEN you get results. But when you are working apparently for no good reason, it gets soul destroying after a while. Every day you work hard and all your bosses can pick up on is what you didn’t do or got slightly wrong, rather than the shedloads that you did do. Either that or they then ask you to do more.

Business right now has reverted back to its own etymological meaning: no longer is it a place where we get things done, it’s a place where we are busy, being busy! (etymology – Business: a place where we are busy)

You see when the financial crash happened we were all happy to step up, chip in, do that bit more to ensure the survival of the businesses that we worked for.

“Of course I’ll work that extra hour to get the project done,” you’d say, “Yes, its OK I’ll take a pay freeze if it means that the business stays in business.”

“Yes, I’ll work longer hours if it means that I keep my job.”

Why did we do that? Because the vast majority of staff are essentially good people who want to do the best they can in their jobs. They are not ‘shirkers’ who avoid work, the majority of people want to do a good job and will do what it takes to get the job done well, even if that means staying after hours or putting the business first over their personal lives.

So what did businesses do during the recession?

They streamlined, they restructured, they stripped themselves back to the bare bones so that they could reduce costs and keep their losses to a minimum. Sound business sense you might say, and indeed it is. However the new structures relied on the remaining staff working flat out, often doing the jobs that were previously done by two or three people.

That kind of workload is perhaps sustainable for a little while, 6 months, a year – we can all understand the need to do that for a short while. But it’s been 6 years now, and people are just worn out, dog tired, knackered.

You see as soon as businesses moved back into profit, rather than re-investing in their staff (the people that helped keep the business afloat through their tireless working in the recession years), they carried on reducing costs and streamlining their businesses, so that their shareholders/owners could recoup their capital from the profits that started to come through before giving anything back to their staff. The result? Those that were left staffing the by now anorexic organisational structure had to carry even more of a burden. They were loading their staff up like pack horses, and rewarding them not with a carrot but a stick.

“Well if you can do that, you can do this for me too.”

“I don’t want to hear the reasons why you can’t do it, I want to hear that you will do it and when it will be done by.”

“How about you step up into a interim senior manager role? We can’t pay you any more, but you’ll the have the experience and it’ll be good for your career.”

“It’s just one more project in your portfolio, I don’t see what the problem is.”

AND to top all that off, no pay rises (or minimal ones) or bonuses, for the majority of staff – the organisational machine was an insatiable beast, hungry for more, in less time, for less money, with just as good a quality, to create more profit for the business.

Now why am I saying all this?

Because it is WRONG.

Someone needs to say it. So I’m saying it. How business is being run right now is just plain wrong.

It’s not the way to treat people that have helped you out of difficult times, and it’s not the way to do good business. It’s not sustainable, and people are becoming ‘resources’ not real human beings and are being treated like animals.

“WOOOAH!” I hear you cry! “Jo, that’s a bit emotive isn’t it?”

Yes it is, but isn’t it time that we put a stop to bad business practices? Isn’t it time that we at least had a frank discussion about what’s really going on?

On the television every couple of months we hear that the economy is now nearly at the level that it was pre-financial crash. Now I don’t know about you, but that just makes me angry. To hear that ‘the good times’ are here again, is just ridiculous, because I don’t know of ANYONE right now who is in a better position than they were before the financial crash. Never mind that, I don’t know of ANYONE who feels GOOD right now, full stop!

So if the economy is really that good (and let’s bear in mind that the economy figures do come from the office of statistics – a governmental department), where has the money gone from the profits in business? It certainly hasn’t filtered down to most managers and leaders that we know. Isn’t it time that businesses began to pay back their employees for the selfless work they have been doing over the last 6 years?

It’s not happening at the moment, and the likelihood is, that sadly, its probably not going to happen. In fact most managers/staff that we know are working longer hours and working harder than they ever have.

So what to do?
Well, when we are stressed and overworked, we tend to narrow our focus, it tends to become about ‘me and my to-do list’. We don’t think about the wider picture or the grander vision, we just have to get through today and ensure that our boss is happy and that my to-do list just gets a bit shorter. We haven’t got the time or the energy to do much else. Work becomes all-consuming, its demands mean it ends up being a tide of work that never quite goes back out again. We let it slip in to our personal lives, we don’t push back, we just let the tide come in more and more and more. The result is that now most people will work when they get home in the evenings, and most people will work at least to clear emails on the weekend.

The problem is, that we don’t know how to say no anymore. And as a result work has become the main time consumer in our lives.

“Well Jo, its always been like that, it’s just how it is.”

Actually it’s not always been like this. Yes we worked hard, but we also worked in a way that was more natural. I was watching a documentary on the first world war recently and the government ministers would clock off at around 4pm to ensure they got home for dinner! Even factory workers had shifts that are probably a lot shorter than the ones that we have now!

You see bio-chemically we are not designed to work these sorts of hours consistently. The amount of sustained stress that our bodies are currently facing is greater than probably ever in our histories. We just don’t know what effect those stress hormones have on our bodies when sustained for so long, however one thing is for sure, it’s making us very sick.

Right now everyone reading this will know of at least one person who is off sick with stress. Everyone reading this will know of at least one person who is seriously ill as a result of overworking/stress. I’ve been working at Meta for 13 years now and during that time I have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of stress related illnesses and I’m seeing a worrying trend of people that we know and love getting serious, life threatening illnesses as a result of their work.

So I want to tell you something, something that I’d like you and any  organisational leader that reads this to hear. This is something that needs to be said and it needs to be read out at every staff meeting and every board meeting and every shareholders meeting: to remind those that are at the very top that their staff are not just a ‘resource’, they are human beings, human beings that are reaching their limits of capacity and in many cases are already beyond them.

“BEING DEAD IS BAD FOR BUSINESS” 

It may seem shocking for you to read. But I know personally of at least 10 people from the Meta Family who have had life threatening conditions brought on by work related stress in the last 5 years.

So i’ts time for you, the reader of this update, to do something about what is happening to you. You may not be able to change your organisation, but you can change how you treat you. You are tired, you are worn out most likely, so it’s time to begin to look after yourself again. If your work is demanding more and more of you and you cannot see that stopping, then consider your health, consider your family. Being dead is not only bad for business its also bad for families, loved ones and bad for you!

You may think that I am over reacting, but I am not. I am seeing too many people that I love getting seriously ill and it’s time we said something very loud and clear about it. At Meta we stand for a different way of working, a way that is more natural, sustainable and less stressful, where MORE gets done because we are working more effectively, with the natural ebb and flow of our own working patterns, where organisational structures are not based on reducing costs but what will be the most effective to get the work done and where people are thanked for their hard work and rewarded properly for the time and effort they put in.

It’s time that businesses started thanking their staff for frankly saving their skins these last few years. Shareholders, think for a minute, haven’t you earned enough? Isn’t it time to reward your staff for bringing you and your organisation back from the brink to profitability? Directors/Chief executives, isn’t it time that you started thanking your staff for all the hard work they put in and started looking at how to work effectively rather than just harder and faster? Managers/team leaders, make sure that you are looking after yourselves, so that you can find the time to notice, thank and develop your staff and treat them in the way that you would like to be treated.

So what I am saying is this:
It’s time to start looking after you, time to revisit all those tools you’ve learnt from Meta over the years that are to do with self-management and filling your fuel tank. Most of you are now running beyond empty and you really need to take time to refuel and recharge. When you are fuelled up, when you feel that you are in a better more resourceful state, THEN it is easier for you to start standing up for yourself and for your staff. You will start to believe in yourself again, and perhaps you will start to put in some boundaries to stop the tide of work overwhelming you and taking up your precious personal time with your family.

When someone writes your epitaph, you won’t want them to write “He was a bloody hard worker.” Or “She gave her all to that company.”

So let’s put work back into perspective. It’s not the be all and end all. Yes it pays the bills, but it’s not worth killing yourself over and it’s not worth losing quality time with your loved ones either.

Remember the mantra:

‘BEING DEAD IS BAD FOR BUSINESS” – (and it’s even worse for you..)

Got it?? 

If there’s one thing you take away from this update, it’s to look after yourself better and to make sure you begin to create time for you and your family/loved ones. It’s time to re-balance, time to re-focus on what really matters. I’ll leave you with this thought..

How would you like to be remembered?
As a hard worker?

Didn’t think so..

Time for a change, don’t you think?

And you don’t have to do this alone by the way!
Oh no, if you’re reading this you are part of the Meta Family, so if you don’t KNOW how to get the balance back, if you don’t know how to get out of the place you’re in, if you’d like some help or advice, a rant buddy or just a friendly ear, then both me and Di are ALWAYS available to you. Just give us a call or arrange a catch up over a cuppa. We’d love to hear from you, and we’d love to help if we can.

Much love to you all,

Jo xxx

About Jo Clarkson

Jo Clarkson is the CEO of Meta and a frequent writer of the Meta-Org.com blog.

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