Whilst doing a recent excellent team workshop with a large charity I was made aware by the head of the leadership team we were working with that actually there is an ‘I’ in team! – When you write the word TEAM in block capitals you’ll notice that within the A there is actually a capital I!
It was a bit of a revelation to me to find that I in ‘TEAM’ because at Meta we’ve always stressed how important it is to start with yourself when it comes to team working. Right now many of you will be working longer hours than you ever have and work no longer has the boundaries that it traditionally used to have – (Mainly that once you were out of the office the work stopped!)
It is vital therefore that you look after yourselves, and as any of you who have worked with us will know we put it at the forefront of the work we do, not just because its really important but because it leads to a greater capacity to work and enables you to be more effective and efficient.
With the advent of mobile technologies – the smart phone, the blackberry, the laptop – now office time has become extended to wherever you take your phone or laptop with you. That means that whereas before you did all your work at the office now many of you will work at home or on the way home. This extension of the office by mobile technology means the insatiable beast of our workloads now seeps into our home lives. The boundaries have become blurred between home life and work life and indeed for many of you this will mean working on the way home on the train, or finishing a report on the table in kitchen at home before dinner, or clearing your emails on a Sunday evening so that you have a clearer inbox before you start your working week in the office on a Monday morning.
Not enough of us are challenging this invasion into our home lives made by the never-ending demands of our workplaces. It leads to many of us having less time with our families and I hear all too often the complaint that children’s bedtimes are missed and weekend time with the family impinged upon.
It’s so important to start putting in firm boundaries to stop the flow of the unceasing tide of work into our personal and family time. First of all, make a record of how much time you spend working in an average week. What work is done in the office (and what times do you arrive/leave) and what work is done at home? – Be honest with yourself and after you’ve recorded it, review it and decide what you find acceptable and what is not acceptable to you.
The things that you decide are not acceptable are what I call the outer boundaries. They are the sea wall, put there to stop the excessive tides of work from overwhelming and flooding into your personal life to damaging effect. To the sports fans reading this, its like the outer boards on a cricket pitch, they don’t mark the boundary they are an outer (unmovable) boundary to protect the spectators. Then to continue with the cricketing metaphor there is the rope boundary (which is the actual scoring boundary), this is moved in and out dependent on where the cricket pitch is actually situated in the ground. Once you have established the outer boundaries – these are what I call your ‘non-negotiables’ for example – I will be home every evening in time to put my son/daughter to bed, I won’t do work on the weekends unless its an emergency, I won’t answer emails at home after a certain agreed time – then you can begin to work on the inner flexible boundaries.
What’s interesting is that when these outer boundaries are in place, you’ll soon see that actually no one is forcing you to do the work at those hours and if they are? Well that’s a conversation to be had with those that are asking these unreasonable things of you!
Then you can start to experiment with that inner rope boundary. Remember this is more flexible but no less important to creating that sense of balance in your work/life – perhaps coming home a little earlier (try 15 minutes earlier than normal at a time, not too drastic) or going in a little later. Perhaps banning work from home, or at least stopping doing any work at home? The fear is that if you’re not getting enough work done now, that you’ll get even less done if you do less hours, however the opposite is true IF it is done in the right way (See note below on state and energy) – don’t take my word for it though, do you own empirical research and see!
Now it’s all fine and dandy to establish these boundaries, but it’s important to not only establish them but also to start to look after you as well. Your state is the most influential factor when it comes to how you experience life. If you are tired and stressed its amazing how difficult and hard life can be, and isn’t it amazing when you’re having ‘one of those days’ how many irritating and obnoxious people there are in the world??
I’m trying here to lighten the mood.. Because for many of us work and life has just become heavy and hard work. This leads to us being grumpy not just in work but outside of work too, when we let the tide of work come in and never push back, then it has a serious effect on our relationships at home too.
Clearly it’s time to have a re-think. Because right now what most of us are doing isn’t working for us, our family or ironically for employers either!
Think of your mind and body as a light bulb. In order to work, it requires energy (in this case electricity) and if it does not have enough energy it does not light up. Far too many of you are running the light bulb that is you on the lowest setting on the dimmer switch! There’s not much energy in you, so you barely light up or function.
You are a being of light! – No, I’ve not just gone all airy-fairy and spiritual on you, at the smallest sub-atomic levels you ARE pure energy. So if you are energy, surely its important to keep your energy topped up?
The first and quickest way to do this is to sleep well! Research that we revealed in an update from last year says that we need a minimum of 7 hours sleep to be effective, and ideally 8 to ensure we are functioning at our best. How many hours did you get last night?
Secondly it’s important to take your breaks when you are at work, AWAY from your desk! Back to back meetings are not conducive to working at your best, regular breaks are regularly highlighted in research as being needed to ensure consistently high levels of performance at work.
Thirdly top up your fuel tanks on a regular basis – at work, on your way to and fro from work, and at home. Make a list of 20 things that give you that energy boost that can help you top up your internal fuel tank and make sure you have the list with you at all times. When you wake up in the morning ask yourself the question – “where is MY fuel tank today?” – if its low then make sure you have plenty of things to top it up before you get to work!
When you look after yourself and fill your fuel tank on a daily basis, as well as putting in firm boundaries when it comes to your work patterns, you’ll notice that work and life just gets easier. Its not rocket science, and yet most of us have let these things slip in the last few years.
So make a stand for you, and actually it won’t just be your family that thanks you, it’ll be your employer too. Why? Because working in a more natural, energy efficient way like this ensures that you’ll get MORE not less work done at a higher, more consistent quality.
Wishing you a great month,