A while back, I was people watching in the airport café in Birmingham. There was a guy who seemed unable to eat his breakfast because of constant calls to his office. Not calls FROM his office, you understand, but calls TO his office! Seriously, what call can’t wait until you’ve finished your sausages?
And that got me to thinking about why it is that people seem unable to make time for themselves. And that’s something else: unable or unwilling? We all like to feel important, and for some people their phone is a symbol of how essential they are ALL THE TIME. On the other hand, many people are genuinely tied to their job, highly committed and enthusiastic.
Commitment and motivation are of course important to the success of any organisation, and a feeling that we are significant to others – that what we do matters – is important to motivation. But are we really so indispensable that we can’t have time to finish a meal? I hope not, because when it comes to work/life balance the result can’t be good, and it’s not much better for your business.
First of all, from the point of view of an employer, nobody should be indispensable. Except for the very smallest, organisations should be structured and staffed to allow for someone – anyone – to be out of the loop for a bit, because otherwise we are exposing ourselves to a significant risk. What’s the plan if that key person suddenly retires to a beach in Tahiti? And anyway, shouldn’t we be encouraging a better work/life balance? Better that, in the long term, than the burnout that can follow from never getting away from work. Proper staffing levels should allow for effective time management.
For the individual, if you like feeling indispensable, then you may need to look at your work/life balance and double check your priorities: I never heard of anyone whose last words were “I wish I’d spent more time at work”! Seriously, if the worst happened, chances are your colleagues would manage. And if your staff can’t manage without you for a bit, then you’re not delegating enough!
So if you are indispensable, your organisation is at risk. But hopefully you’re not. And if you’re not indispensable, give yourself a break – and at least finish your sausages before you make the next call!