I once worked with an organization where most of the employees were expected to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We were always “ON”. I didn’t realize at the time, that salaries were set slightly above the hourly wage rate (exempt) in order make the positions more attractive and to protect the organization from labor law violations; while company phones were issued to make accessibility more “convenient”.
The first couple of years at that pace were new and exciting. My family was supportive, and I was thrilled that others were dependent upon me, entrusting me with such responsibility. Then, I noticed co-workers who had been there longer than I had, becoming disgruntled, angry and even sick from exhaustion. When they would complain or look for new opportunities, I just assumed they weren’t cut out for the job. But I was determined to be.
Side Note: Since the salaries were set at exempt rates, there were no open positions in town which would come close to offering the income and benefits we had come to rely on.
My personal life also began to be put on hold in order to meet the needs of the organization – much more often than I had become comfortable with. The expectation had been set and because I needed the job, I consistently exceed it. Just to be clear… I was not a surgeon, a psychiatrist, a priest, an astronaut or a member of the military… or any other position where one might expect to have “scheduled on-call” responsibilities.
In the current employment market, organizations provide a variety of examples highlighting appropriate and inappropriate work-life balance. Some of them – along with providing cell phones and tablets for ease of access – invest in additional conveniences (employee benefits and perks) which make working longer hours a more attractive proposition. These include onsite amenities such as cafeterias and restaurants which are open 24/7 and provide a variety of healthy and traditional fare, healthcare clinics, gym and pool facilities, showers, barbershops, nail and wax salons, massage parlors, fold-out cots or nap rooms and even psychotherapy services. As benefits, these sound amazing and add value to your professional life experience. The issue I have is that they are located “ON”site. Essentially, these organizations have become self-contained communities or compounds (depending on your point of view), providing every reason for you to stay and logically minimizing your reasons to leave. Some research suggests that these environments also help to create isolation, loneliness, depression and burnout in employees and may not be as financially sustainable as the architects had perceived.
On the flip side, there are companies who have communicated policies outlining what the expectations are for employees in communicating during scheduled time off as well as throughout the working day. Some companies are now mandating email and phone free time during each day or at least a couple of times per week – making creativity and productivity much easier to accomplish. We can’t expect employees to protect and utilize their time at work wisely if we don’t honor their scheduled time off.
Research shows that working longer hours doesn’t consistently satisfy the need for increased productivity. There is room to step away and prioritize activities and relationships outside of our chosen professions. If we fail to see the value in our presence and existence outside of work, we will fail to create traction in those areas and we may miss out on significant treasure.
Leading Edge: It’s one thing to miss out on the rest of life intentionally… but another entirely to miss out on life inadvertently. Even if you own the company – always being “ON” isn’t the best use of your time, your talent or your treasure. It could actually be seen as an abuse. Take a break and allow yourself to gain perspective. A change of pace and an alternate environment allows potential for creativity to blossom and a fresh outlook to enter the organization upon your return.