My aforeposted interest in living deeply and consuming the beauteous raw energy of life was quickly challenged; it is, after all, a truism that anything worth doing is subject to an immediate multiple choice test in which none of the abundant answers quite appear correct.
Employees are frequently the bane of my existence. Were it possible to complete all of the required work myself, I would be inordinately happy and spend my weekends merrily cleaning the garage and baking cupcakes, satisfied with the admittedly narrow confines of a peaceful life. This is, unfortunately, not the case. And as I have inherited some employees from predecessors, and more were hired by others and assigned to my teams without my consent, I have found the three teams under my purview are composed of a few whose skills and work ethic are not sympathetic to my own.
Periodically I return home from a stressful work day during which teeming hoardes have invaded my office under the mistaken belief that I actually care about the details of their work. These are the days when I wearily tell my husband I would like to fire the lot and start fresh, building teams by hiring one neurotic but brilliant workaholic at a time; prima donas need not apply.
This past week was replete with examples of these behaviors, and I was impressed with my forebearance. Until yesterday, that is, when due to an unfortunate series of circumstances involving a series of meetings and some sorely-overdue errands performed during lunch hour I was unable to squeeze in time to eat breakfast or lunch (a donut was the stand-in for a proper meal). My patience was sidetracked by pangs of hunger. I unburdened my woes for 120 seconds with one of my managers between meetings. And as I drove home after unsuccessfully attempting to troubleshoot a problem a software engineer from another team had created in a product I have already released to our testing team, I realized that I am doing this all wrong.
I am putting life on the back burner. There is always a reason to stay at the office for another 30 minutes, or to stay up late working from home, or to lie awake and worry about the timeline for a critical project. In the meantime the dog would like to be walked, my husband would like to share his latest music discoveries with me, I would like to make my signature marinara (it really is exceptional – one of the few things I can cook very well), and my friends would like to have a conversation about something other than work. I spend most of my energy at work, and as a consequence I have little energy for real life even when time allows. This is unhealthy, something all the more apparent to me as I navigate my forties, childless, often feeling a stranger to my husband and friends, an outsider in my own house.
What does this have to do with effective management?
When people are well rested and able to participate in a life outside of work, they tend to be more productive. Adequate sleep and low stress stimulate creativity, which is necessary for solving complex problems. A well-balanced diet along with a good night’s rest support the immune system, reducing the number of sick days required.
I already encourage employees to leave after 8 hours. If they must work a late evening or put in time over a weekend, I am conscientious about making compensatory time arrangements. This is part of my experiment to create a life-friendly work environment, a subculture within a corporate culture that espouses these values without living up to its word. My failure is my hypocrisy; I too must be part of the experiment in order for it to pass muster.
So here are my predictions, as I adopt a life-friendly approach to my work:
- I will still receive, or not receive, my promotion. The number of hours I work will make no difference whatsoever.
- Projects will be completed in a timely manner and the quality of the work will improve.
- My husband and I will spend more time together, and remember that we each find the other very amusing and likeable.
- My dog will be happier.
- I will discover that my friends have lives of their own which do not revolve around my job.
- My employees will annoy me less, and impress me more.