For many, work means they must on location or on site somewhere everyday. This typically applies to everyone from the cleaner to the receptionist to the finance manager to the managing director and the business owner. And quite often, the days are long, laborious and demanding. But do they have to be? Is there another way? Can the business still operate and function without the need for everyone to be at the business location or onsite every single working day? For some roles, this is not possible because there are roles which can not be performed away form the business and need to occur at on location or onsite. For example:
- product operator
- emergency services (police, ambulance, fire brigade)
- Work remotely on any given day of the week:
What I mean by this is: I am based in Melbourne Australia, and the traffic conditions here have become terrible. There seems to be constant road works taking place on the main arterials, traffic congestion is at an all time high and public transport is probably the worst it has ever been. To have the ability to have some controller your time and work remotely at a different location is a huge advantage for the individual in question but also for the employer. I include the employer, because by trusting and respecting your team and showing how you value them in this way by allowing them the ability to take more control of their time is invaluable.
- Step away from the company for an extended period:
The thought of stepping away from work for an extended period is something I am sure many would like to do but at the same time can not see it happening because:
- they are so entrenched at work that they see there is no possible way to get away.
- they are terrified of the thought that work might actually run without them and perhaps return only to be shown the front door. This is a real world concern for many and unfortunately it is an indication of where they are at and more importantly the type of culture within their business.
Years later when I found myself in leadership roles, I exercised this same approach with my team. My approach to this has aways been that you don’t need to be at work all the time in order to still get things done. We all have personal needs from time to time that for some can make it difficult or challenging to ask for some time off. So my approach has always been along the lines of: If you are not physically required to be at work, then I am very open to you working at an offsite location when needed. You know what your responsibilities are and the deadlines which are needed. You control your time and how you use it.
I was the Department GM of a large technical group and I needed to take 6 to 10 weeks off for person reasons. Prior to this happening, I had undertaken a major organisation transformation to optimise and improve the way the department ran. The legacy structure was far from efficient and optimal. Along with the transformation, I implemented LEAN principals into this technical office, rationalising the reporting and streamlined the communication channels into and out of the group. As soon as I discovered the family issue, I discussed it with my MD and advised that I needed to take a leave of absence for 6 to 10 week in two weeks time. I was very fortunate to have an understanding and supportive MD who understood. He was great at the time and said that he would make some changes and step in for me during my absence to support my team during this period. During my absence, my needs were respected and I was not contacted during this time. When I returned, I had a debrief with the MD, only to find out that he did not need to step in because my team had everything under control to his surprise. I had developed and implemented good processes and a framework which was engaging and effective, such that, the team just knew what to do, when to do it and to how to deal with pop-up issues in an objective and logical manner. For many senior managers, this would be a scary or threatening scenario to consider. That is, to be told by the MD their team can run without them. The natural instinct is to fear that maybe you are not required anymore. For me, the opposite is true. I look at it from a different perspective: I know my capacities, I know the value I bring to the table and if my area of responsibility can operate without me, then I know I have done my job right.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to go on holiday, say to the other side of the world and know that everything back at work is ok! It is possible and I have done it. I was the GM of a small company which I headed and took to market. About 12 months after commencing, I gave 6 months notice and requested 8 weeks off to travel to Europe from Australia. Again, based on the good relationship I had with the CEO who was the owner, this was approved. Like with my Department GM example above, I had implemented some robust processes and framework during my first 12 months. When I was on my holiday with my family in the Mediterranean, I used my trusty iPad and some mobile internet data and was able to check in to work via email and see how all was progressing. I did this about 3 or 4 times per week just to keep the finger on the pulse. I recall that over the 8 weeks, I think I got involved ( albeit briefly) two times in a quick email chat to help out with a decision. I returned to find the business was in good shape, nothing had broke and no issues had come up. For me, this was the ultimate balance of being able to stay connected with work while being on a fantastic holiday with no negative impact on my family. I would check into work in the morning before my family would wake up and then sometimes again in the late afternoon while they were washing up after our afternoon swim in the Mediterranean sea. In between, we traveled, saw some great sights, caught up with family and friends and of course had some great food and drink.
The Wrap Up
The ability to have your business ( or department / division ) function without you needing to always be there is a great achievement and the benefits of this I believe are greatly underestimated. There is no doubt for all responsible business leaders and employees that work commitment and work success is important. But at the end of the day, it is just work. Family and health are far more important and valuable. There are only 24 hours in the day and there is only one of you, so having the ability to control your time and how you want or need to spend it, particularly on important moments is essential. Quite often, it is us who chain ourselves to our desk because we feel that we have to in order to succeed. From my experience this does not have to be the case. We need to have good and robust processes and a framework which supports good communication, effective decision making capabilities, engagement and trust.
This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 9