future working practices

It may be strange to think that the future working practices would do well to emulate the 1800’s, but think back to the 18th century before all this modern technology was invented, communication was done by mail and you would have the whole day to consider your answer before putting it back in the post. The sender would get it the next day and in total it took at least three days to communicate, resulting in a slower pace, and significantly less stress.

When modern technology came along we were sold the myth that it would make our job easier. Infact I can still remember a discussion in the sixties of what would we do with all the leisure time we would have when the machines were doing the work. What leisure time? Most people are working longer and harder then they used to and in many cases needlessly as well.

On one of my time management courses a very distraught marketing executive said that in the past she would work a seventy hour week, but at least when she got home it was now her time. Having a daily commute of 45 minutes each way, she would wind down on the trip home and then forget work till the morning when she would use the journey to rev up for the day ahead.

Now, she said very sadly, with the invention of the mobile phone, her customers are on the mobile as soon as she leaves the office, usually for the whole journey, and then they also call her at home in the evening and at weekends. In the evening she has to do the urgent emails that came in since she left the office, and it goes without saying that she answered her text messages as soon as they came. She was teetering on the edge of a nervous break down.

How did she get so bad, and if this story resonated with you, then how did it happen to you? Oh and before I go on, let us not forget that our friends can be as equally demanding and now you even have to bring in the need to hold five conversations at once on Messenger, or keep your Facebook entry up to date, or read the Twitters that you are following.

The start of much of our problems has its origins in the teaching of customer care and some of the policies that companies put in place. Perhaps you have a company policy which says that the phone must be answered within three rings, even if you are already with a customer. Not only does it set an unfortunate mindset of urgency, but it is also very rude to the customer you were with, who was interrupted by the call.

I met a man who refused a very good job because during the interview the potential new boss was so discourteous that he was breaking into the interview to answer his emails as they popped up.

When I say to people why do they answer the phone when it is their own time, they say, well they can’t let the customer down. What they don’t see is that they have conditioned the customer to this way of thinking.   Customers, friends, relations, and even double glazing sales people, do not have an automatic right to your time. Equally no one has the right to assume that you will instantly respond.

It is time to put on the brakes and happily this also works with customers at work, and it starts by understanding that it is a conditioning issue.  Start with new customers who don’t know any other way of working with you, just don’t answer the call out of hours, and then start to reverse the process on the existing customers. One way is to take their call at home, and before they start to tell you their problem say that you are in a meeting and could you ring them first thing in the morning (most say yes out of politeness). You are not lying you are having a meeting – with your family, or a good book, or if is your time to meditate, then you are having a meeting.

As an ex Workaholic I can tell you it works, I went from 4 to 5 calls every night to maybe two a month that were truly urgent. The intensity of my calls at work reduced and emails started to become a true delivery of electronic mail as opposed to another text messaging system, and I became more relaxed.

Remember God created us to break the day into three parts, we sleep eight hours, we work eight hours, and we have eight hours away from work. At the weekend we should also have extra time to properly rest. When we get this balance right then everything falls into place.