What do you want… an easy or a rich life?

This week I wanted to ask you whether you want an easy life or a rich life. I feel that many around me have for some time been veering towards easy, whilst bemoaning what they then get. So I’ve done some thinking about it…

Some of us want an easy life. No question. Simple, easy and clear, known time input and defined rewards. But increasingly, I see people wanting a rich life, or at least not such an easy life that there is no richness in it. They want a life at work that creates a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.

I’m not sure that you can always have an easy and equally rich life at work. Richness tends to require effort, input, thought and consideration. Richness often comes from doing it right. And doing it right usually takes time. Easy is often about time efficiency which often means doing the bare minimum, or only doing what is strictly necessary.

I regularly see organisations adopting working practices that make a lot of sense to the number crunchers, but that make little sense if you think about what so many people are increasingly saying they want in their lives. Perhaps profit today achieved from too much efficiency could tomorrow result in increased costs from low staff retention or low morale.

I know it can often be a fine balance, but let’s take a quick look at a few areas that seem to impact how people feel about what they get from their working lives:

  1. Telephone or face to face meetings?

Telephone is definitely time efficient and a lot more personal than emails, but it often doesn’t build strong relationships like face to face meetings do, just functional ones.

Telephones, by their very nature, are remote, it’s much harder to get a sense of how someone is relating to you on the phone and many really struggle to communicate effectively by phone, they simply prefer eye contact to communicate well.

If we want to develop good relationships at work then the more face to face contact we have, the more successful we will probably be at creating those relationships.

Top ‘rich’ tip: Stop all this nonsense with removing all meeting rooms and demanding meetings take place by phone. There are major benefits to face-to-face. But if you don’t like slouching and too much meeting time, simply remove the chairs or replace the chairs with stools.

  1. Home working or office working?

Home working reduces commute times. This means you can more easily combine domestic duties with work and it allows you to get your head down away from the noise of the workplace. But it also leads to isolation, gaps in communication and shallow or non-existent working relationships with colleagues.

I can’t begin to tell you how many people I have seen over the years say that home working is their dream, but then a few years down the line be morose and disengaged and blame their employers for all that appears wrong in their life. Sometimes it’s like watching a car crash in slow motion.

Top ‘rich’ tip: Those organisations that recognise this need for social engagement with colleagues and managers often limit home working to no more than 50% of contracted hours.

  1. Higher or lower productivity?

Higher productivity, when managed on a win/win basis, is often rewarded with either reduced hours (early finishes/time off) or higher rewards. Higher productivity means heads down, don’t talk, limit interaction with others, email rather than meet. For many it also means, ‘finish quickly and then get home as soon as you can to maximise home time’.

But higher productivity and heads down fails to acknowledge that many attend work for the social dimension, the richness that the people we spend time with at work add to our lives.

Top ‘rich’ tip: If you work in an office where staff work all day with headphones in or where little talking is allowed (occurs) then put extra effort into organising regular social events outside normal working hours – or even during lunch hours.

  1. Communication protocols

Do you prefer time efficient email/business protocols or email protocols that encourage courtesy? In my experience a time efficient email protocol might set out to staff for example that they should not reply to an email if all they have to say is ‘thank you’  (yes, some organisations do stop you from sending emails that contain nothing but a courtesy) or bother to include in emails the recipient’s name and or a friendly sign-off.

Choose the former and your working time is certainly efficient, but choose the latter and you will be creating rich relationships at work that demonstrate the courtesy and warmth you might expect from others towards you.

And how often do we hear ‘did you even see my email?’ Is there a reason why efficiency protocols that limit courtesy are acceptable when they so often cause frustration and resentment between staff? Perhaps you can define for me when it is lazy not to acknowledge an email versus when it is time efficient (and acceptable) not to do so?

Top ‘rich’ tip: When setting/drafting protocols in the workplace we often rely on those with a High C (DISC) or dominant Blue (insights) profile. These people live and die by procedure, efficiency and order. That’s fantastic and you need them, but be very careful if using this profile type to devise protocols when their natural behaviour and communication style is not reflective of the majority of your workforce. You need protocols that reflect the people you have, not what a few individuals might say is most efficient.

There is no doubt that what people want from work and their careers is changing. And it’s not just a generation thing. Equally, in these changed times organisations need to be ever more aware of employee relations and employee well-being if they are to attract and retain the right people.

And my final top tip?

You cannot please all of the people all of the time, so don’t even try! Focus on the people who really add value to your organisation BUT be very aware that those who added value across the last few years may not be the people who add value in the coming years.

Thoughts, ideas, comments all welcomed of course!

If you need to motivate and engage your employees, take a look at our Motivating, Engaging and Retaining Staff training kit.

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