Most of us work across time zones and travel a lot. Technology, originally meant to be an enabler, has made us the quintessential “always on the run executive”. Let us take the case of Chairman, HDFC, who spends close to 10 days a month traveling, both within India and abroad. He is left with no choice but to burn the candle at both ends. Busy people like him end up sacrificing one thing or the other be it sleep, leisure or family life.
To some extent, extreme ambition is to be blamed. It is inevitable most professionals are straddling 15 to 18 hour work days thanks to technology and email. It is also becoming addictive to push yourself hard because things are so competitive that if you slow down, you’ll lose out. There is a psychological dimension to this which we all tend to ignore in our hurry to fit in everything into a finite number of hours. Such busy executives are getting afflicted by feeling of guilt and hopelessness. After all, they are doing one thing at the expense of the other.
Hanging in balance:
The lack of work-life balance threatens to snowball into a huge problem for individuals and companies alike. A study conducted by the US-based Maritz Inc says that work-life balance issues are among the most significant causes of employee turnover. Just 9% of the respondents felt companies help them achieve the right balance between work and personal life, and barely 12% felt work expectations at their company were “realistic and fair”.
Clearly, as the pressure to perform rises, there is no escaping a lifestyle like this. The sooner one accepts this reality and learns to deal with it, the better. But is there anything one can do to ease the pain? The bad news is, there are no single-shot solutions. And the good news is that there are some simple things that individuals and companies can do to ease the problem to some extent.
Smart executives manage their time efficiently and cut out the clutter. One of the executives for instances, uses his time in the car while traveling to and from office to take official calls and tie up loose ends. That lets him be more productive during his working hours. CEO of IBM manages a 20,000 people operation with a global footprint. Each morning close to 200-300 emails scream for his attention. He makes sure all of it is cleaned out everyday so that it doesn’t weight on his mind.
Ideally, one shouldn’t bring work home, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Ms M often had to work on weekends and realized that whenever she did that, she would feel irritated. She now earmarks a fixed slot on Sunday to check email and get other work out of the way. That way it ‘feels’ non-intrusive.
Socializing with colleagues and professional contacts is seen as essential for networking. While some of it is useful, if you are partying uselessly at the cost of spending time with your family, learn to say no. The top executives must learn never to party more than necessary and spend that time with their family.
Schedule your travel plans smartly. Whenever one has to travel within India on company’s work try to return the same day so as to be with wife and kids. It can be taxing sometimes but it is important to be at home physically and it is worth that extra effort.
Many executives particularly those in senior positions tend to micro manage. In essence, that means that they end up doing close to everything themselves. They must learn to delegate so things run smoothly even they are away. Ms P is the only woman in a leading IT organization at the director level. Being a woman, there are times when responsibilities on the home front simply cannot be ignored. There was an instance few years ago when there was a critical situation at work and at the same time her father fell seriously ill. She was needed in both places. What worked in her favor was that she had built a fairly powerful rung which immediately took charge. So she could be with her family and monitor things at office from a distance.
The question of how much responsibility one wants to shoulder or how many sacrifices one is willing to make will invariably come up at some point or the other. If one thinks he is not prepared for it, he must be bold enough and learn to say ‘no’.