Most of Anita’s mornings were stressful! A mad rush always preceded getting to office. But the worst was the string of messages that piled up during the night. Their muted ‘ding’ alerting her tired mind that the clock-to-deadline was ticking. Even in her sleep, Anita was at work.
The culprit: Her boss – The Owl. Wise beyond her years, experienced, business-savvy and when it came to people, she actually did give a hoot! In short, Anita’s boss had every positive attribute of that astute, round-eyed bird. Including, unfortunately, the ability to operate best at night!
Initially, the ‘you’ve got mail’ alerts woke everyone up. Anita’s husband would grumble and her two-year old would immediately sit up and want to play. Unable to bear it, Anita finally spoke to her boss who soundly advised: “Turn off the sound!”
Samir was not as fortunate. His phone would ring at 02:00 am, jolting him out of a deep slumber. Convinced it was a family emergency, he would scramble for the instrument. “Whatcha doin’, Samir?” The unmistakable accent of his boss would blast through the earpiece. “It’s 02:00 am here, boss, what do you think I would be doing?” Samir’s boss would be on a flight in a different time zone and in need of some ‘nice-to-have’ information. So he would call Samir! It happened again, and again, and…Samir began switching off his phone at night! Power play, or just no inconsideration, whatever the reason, it was getting on his nerves.
Samir made a decision – knee-jerk, hence not the best one. It rendered him unreachable in all emergencies. Times when all hands needed to be on deck! Yet, Samir would be missing! It wasn’t his fault. His leader had ‘cried wolf’ once too often. And the business suffered.
Leaders may defend themselves: Night is the only time available; they themselves get directions from their leaders at night; deadlines are tight! Consequently, everyone down the chain of command gets a ‘ding’.
Be realistic guys! What kind of quality can you expect from work done at midnight – by someone who’s half asleep?
So please consider these:
Nights are for sleeping: It is one of nature’s laws applicable to humans. By bending it, leaders unleash a range of wellness issues. Sleep disorders, stress, illness, and attrition. People work hard enough during the day. At night please enjoy, and let your people enjoy, the gift of sleep!
*Rotating the time-zone: Time-zone conundrums automatically accompany all multi-national environments. Singapore starts working while we’re brushing our teeth! The US folks enter office when we’re on our way home! And the nuisance of that weekly conference call at 6:30 am – or worse, 2:00 am. A necessary evil. However, by rotating the conference call timings, the late night Gordian knot is cut – equally – across everyone around the world. People are more agreeable to a monthly late night – by turn – rather than a weekly one imposed only upon them. It is a fair deal – push for it!
Program message delivery: Commonly available applications enable messages to be sent at specific times. Only the understandably urgent ‘Telegram’, need be delivered at midnight! By programming delivery, normal business messages can reach inboxes at a decent hour.
Night-time is excellent think time: How often do we complain that we are so busy doing, that we have no time to think. The twilight zone between shut-eye and slumber is a great time to wind down, introspect and think. Night, allows that time!
Hear people’s messages: Leaders – all the way up the command-chain – need to be sensitive about (mis)using their people’s personal time. If they’re not, they need to be told! Upward feedback, one-on-ones and skip-level meetings are excellent vehicles for informing leaders that their owl-like behaviour is unacceptable! Leaders: please, listen up!
Then again, today is an always ‘on’, ever-available age. Ever-connected to the workplace, friend circle, and an array of social and business communities. Even in slumber, our mind is, sub-consciously, permanently cocked for that ‘ding’. It’s the old ‘stand-by’ mode on steroids! In short, our present corporate routine actually propagates this ‘owl culture’!
It’s the new lifestyle! Staying up – and keeping everyone else up – all night. Working, partying, working, Whatsapp-ing, working... Blurring the barrier, between work and self, several times a day, and night. Not realizing that the consequences on everyone’s physical and mental health will show up – inevitably. Soon it will be payback time! When the only currency acceptable will be multicolored pills!
Okay, realistically, it’s unreasonable to mandate everyone’s complete disconnection from the ’network’. Not happening! But (only) leaders can influence a change.
And get the owl to sleep at night…