We are at a three-day workshop with the client, a large company, spending long hours with their successful young leaders. Our day begins at 8:30 am over breakfast and closes at 7:00 pm. A few of the managers are already at their table in the conference room. Deeply engrossed into their mails or poring over documents. Some are on the phone over lunch and a few of them are doing meetings at the end of the day. A couple of them said they have annual planning work to do. I am drained as I wait for my car, grateful to be going home, mind totally relaxed. Here are some folks whose second work shift will begin. So what that they are about 15 to 20 years younger than I. When will these people decompress? When will they make the mental space to absorb the discussions of the day? When will they rest? Will their sleep be restful?
Learning to cope with work stress is a life skill. What does not break us only makes us stronger. A routine or a daily practice a great stressbuster – a little exercise, meditation, walk after a meal. ‘How do I even keep to a routine when I don’t know what time I’m going to get home?’, asks 24-year-old Rajat, a litigation lawyer. At work by 10 am, Rajat only gets home by 1 and 2 am. He works 6 days a week. ‘I take a break of an hour from 5 pm when the courts close till about 6:30 pm. This is his well-deserved pause for the first half of his work day. His second work shift will begin once he knows what court matters are coming up tomorrow. Rajat has gone to a nearby gym to explore the timing but is not sure if he will be able to attend the gym in the morning before work. If he is lucky Rajat gets 6 hours of sleep.
What is a sustainable lifestyle? How does one manage time and rest? ‘I have stopped traveling by train now. I only taken an Uber or Ola’, says Rajat. ‘Are you able to catch some sleep in the taxi?’, I ask. ‘No I can’t sleep when I’m being driven’. ‘I don’t think you should sleep even when you drive’, I say and we laugh. ‘I think I will get time when I begin my own practice’. When will that be? ‘In a year’, says Rajat confidently.
Rajat loves football and plays twice a week. The atmosphere at work is collegial and Rajat has made friends at work. He has a boss who gives him the space and gives him responsibility. Rajat has ‘eustress’. He is happy and being happy is a big part of being healthy. Doing what you love and loving what you do does the trick for Rajat. ‘I walk and take the stairs and I have cut back on non-veg food’, says Rajat. Little things to be mindful of that keeps one healthy. Rajat’s little keep fit choices. He has many friends from school, college and work, makes time to catch up his family on Sundays, and gives time to his hobbies, reading, playing football and investing in stocks.
Rajat has friends who are doing the long commute, long hours of work, earning very well but they don’t enjoy their work. ‘He loves the money but he hates the work’, says Rajat of his friend Anupam. A bright engineer, Anupam is saving money to go abroad to do his MS. He wants his job. Sometimes it gets very monotonous. I am better off than some folks who are in professions where they don’t like what they do. This is a double whammy.
Organizations do very well with their Employer Value Proposition (EVP), making it attractive for the best talent to join. They offer extensive training and good roles, but they can do much better in making it sustainable for the employee to look after their health and their relationships. The investment in the employee will give them a well-adjusted healthy employee who will be able to do happy work and maintain an even keel.
Organizations have a responsibility to make it sustainable for employees to work long hours after managing long commutes. Unhealthy work practices and stress can take a toll on employee health, relationships, and marriage. ‘I am very good at work and my colleagues and bosses are very happy with me, but my wife and son are unhappy, says 38-year-old Allen, a senior executive who is being groomed for the CEO’s role. ‘Even on Sundays I am on my laptop or on my IPad. It makes my wife and son feel very neglected’. Allen has a new boss and the organization is in a churn. Allen is at cross-roads of his career and is even harboring ideas of becoming an entrepreneur.
A happy life comes from balance. If Rajat wants to be happy he needs to find the middle path. He needs to learn to make time for himself, invest in his health, spend time and give his family his mindshare, he needs to invest time in learning and keeping abreast with advances in his profession and he needs to give time to friends, he need to work in the community. Extraordinary balance comes with disciple, with managing time, prioritization and delegation. Carrying people along who will be your allies at work and at home. But the first step is finding work that we love and loving the work we do. It is the first step to sustained successful work and life.
~ Deepa [Feb 2017]