It’s snowing today and I’m working from my home office, watching the weather and the traffic reports from the comfort of my sweatpants.
The connectivity in today’s work provides flexibility to work when and where we want — but with that flexibility also comes responsibility: Responsibilities to our families and friends to set boundaries with our work, and responsibility to our employees to create a culture where they are able to disconnect from their work emails and their remote access tokens and create space for thinking and a life outside of work.
The week, a new law in France requires companies with more than 50 employees to establish rules limiting the use of work email after hours. While somewhat “progressive,” it’s not entirely surprising in a place like France, which also previously legalized a 35-hour workweek.
Meanwhile, a CEO resigned in Japan over the holidays after Matsuri Takahashi, a young employee, died from “karoshi,” a term deriving from Japan that indicates an employee worked him or herself to death.
You might expect a stark contrast between these cultures, but the implications go beyond global cultures and drive to the heart of the company cultures we are creating — wherever it might be.
I’m reminded of a business leader and mentor who once told a story about doing a stint working abroad in Asia. Missing the family at home, he thought nothing of working late every night, until one of his employees mentions a key factor: As long as the boss was working, everyone else is working.
His employee told him, “We need you to go home; we can’t go home until you go home.”
Here’s how you can buck the trend:
- Prioritize the importance of rest in your workplace – It shouldn’t take an act of parliament to shut off the company email overnight or at least for you to role model not responding to overnight overtures. Add boundaries to your calendar in 2017 — and keep them.
- Show Vulnerability – This is a sure-fire way of fostering authenticity and allowing your employees to be vulnerable themselves. If you’re sick, rest! Don’t be a hero by working through it. The heroic act is showing you’re human.
- Respond to your employee’s need – Sure, we all pitch in more than we want to sometimes (and it’s nothing even the French law only applies to companies with more than 50 employees), but by knowing and understanding your employees’ needs, you can help prevent burnout before it starts. Theis requires inquiring about their well-being, a foreign thought to far too many managers.
- Role Model Healthy Behaviors – As mentioned before, leave at a reasonable hour, and encourage others to pack up and leave on your way out. Offer to move an 8 a.m. meeting to 8:30 a.m., so your employees can get a little more rest if they’ve been putting in late nights. Put vacation on a pedestal, and take the time off from work that you’re entitled to. No small feat, as research indicates that more than 50% of Americans don’t take all their vacation days. Send the message that vacation is important by talking about yours, asking about theirs, and truly unplugging during your own vacation (or theirs). Let them know you want your vacation absence to be as valuable for them as it is for you.
- Help Reduce Stress (not cause more) – Learn what stresses your employees out, and then avoid these actions. Let them know you’re working on this. Have fun and be fun to further reduce stress and exhaustion. One of my favorite sayings of all time is by Victor Borge, who said, “The shortest distance between two people is laughter.”
Let’s learn from international law and set our own intentional law of practicing well-being. And get to work on legislating a 35-hour work week, will ya? For the employees of course!
This article was published by Scott Mautz & Natalie Hastings
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