For most business owners (and particularly those spearheading start-ups), time is a fairly fluid concept, with work seldom taking place exclusively between the hours of 9 and 5. Running an enterprise takes an exceptional amount of hard graft, but luckily, the rewards on offer for those willing to go the extra mile can be plentiful.
But what about those without a stake in business profits? Should they be expected to adhere to the same lofty standards? Ask any business owner, and they’ll likely tell you this isn’t the case. But thanks to the hyper-connectivity of today’s world, it’s become increasingly easy to take advantage of employees without even realising it.
Sure it’s all well and good for you to engage in an email blitz at 11pm on a Tuesday night – after all, it’s the first free moment you’ve had all day – but did you ever stop to think about how the recipient of this communication tsunami might feel? Imagine the kind of panic you’d feel if 21 emails from the boss arrived in your inbox in quick succession – it’s safe to say you probably wouldn’t be arriving at work feeling well rested the next day.
Studies show that over 50% of all employees fail to leave work behind at the end of the day, with a whopping 44% continuing to check their email even whilst on holiday. But has this widespread workaholism come about thanks to the rapid evolution of technology (usually cited as the culprit), or have we simply been wielding our powers of connectivity unwisely?
Ultimately, it’s probably a combination of the two, with expectations of deliverables constantly being redefined thanks to the ever-reduced effort required to achieve them. But just because it’s easy to respond to an email or type up a quick report on the go, does that mean your employees should be expected to do this?
If you want to prevent widespread burnout (or mutiny), you might want to start thinking about the expectations you have of your staff members, and put up some clear boundaries to help keep your corporate culture in check.
Here are three key things your employees don’t owe you:
Unless your employees are being paid for overtime, your midnight check-ins and early morning wake-up calls are likely unwelcome and definitely unfair. Given the fact that most of us no longer expect to clock off and be left alone, we’re left feeling constantly anxious that we might be missing something important. You owe it to your employees to put this notion to rest, which you can achieve simply by setting a precedent and enforcing a no-email-after-5pm policy. You have a drafts folder for a reason – use it!
Just because you and your business are inextricably entwined doesn’t mean your employees should feel a similar sense of separation anxiety when outside the office walls. Yes, of course you want your staff members to support and believe in your cause, but it’s important to remember whose bank account the business profits go into at the end of the day. So don’t force your employees to share the latest company Facebook post or attend yet another after-work get together – allow them to tell you where their boundaries lie and your business will be significantly better for it.
It’s often been said that misery loves company, and many business leaders tend to reinforce this theory in times of stress. But just because you’re being given a hard time by clients or having to chase down an errant payment doesn’t mean your employees should have to bear the burden with you. Remember, your staff members signed up to perform a role, not to be an emotional punching bag, so before you call on that ever-faithful assistant to lend an understanding ear or transfer blame to some unsuspecting underling, make sure to ask yourself whether the resultant personal gain justifies the adverse effects on your corporate culture.