We are quickly approaching Independence Day here in the United States, July 4th. This is a time widely known for grilling out, spending time on the beach, enjoying festivals, and watching fireworks to celebrate the birth of our nation. During this holiday, Integro schedules Project Shut Down. Project Shut Down is the term I use for days during the year where we schedule no workers on site at all of our projects. It is a day off for everyone in the company. No email, no phone, no crews.
I consider Project Shut Down to be one of the most important assets of our firm. Our construction work requires as much, if not more mental capacity as it does physical capacity. Our days are long and our expectations are high. I demand a multi-faceted array of talent from my staff – requiring that their daily issues are not merely addressed, rather that they are resolved. This, of course, all being done with professionalism, humility, and enthusiasm.
This is no small feat. Each person on my team has spouses, children, and personal lives.
When it comes to construction, I have the greatest team in the world. As such, it is my job to ensure that their needs are well regarded. Part of my approach to this concept is Project Shut Down. I cannot expect my team to be 100% 24/7. It’s not physically possible. They need to decompress, they need to relax, they need to spend time doing the things in their lives that are most important to them.
Yes, we love our work. The goal, however, is to work to live and not live to work. The irony in this realization is that our work suffers if our work itself is the sole focus of any given member of our team. In order to be passionate and work with purpose, we have to have a bigger picture clearly in focus – why should anyone care about Integro’s growth and passion if the success of our goals does not positively impact their personal lives?
In the age of technology, generations of workers – from Baby Boomers to Millennials – are fully connected to work all of the time in some capacity. Every person that I spoke to about disconnecting responded with the same sentiment – it’s really hard to do that:
“People still email me with time-sensitive stuff!”
“I check my email so I can prepare myself for what’s coming when I get back. I don’t like to be bombarded.”
“Our team works globally in different time zones.”
We all know these arguments, right? Well, I’m here to tell you – with love – that I think all of them are silly. Our lives are too important for excuses like that.
Here are my ideas on how to stop working in the 21st century:
1.Unsync. No, I’m not crazy! I’m not a hippie! Yes, I do have a job that makes incredible demands on me! I do it anyway – yep, that’s right – I go to “Settings” and I click that button that syncs my email off. Boom. Personal email only when I check my phone! Have a laptop or desktop computer at home? Turn off any notifications from your email. Turn off the feature that automatically loads your email application when you turn your computer on.
I do this for vacations and long weekends. I also do this daily.
When I have completed all of the tasks that I can for the day, I turn off my work email. What am I going to be able to do after 7pm when some random **** hits the fan as I’m spending time with my family? Nothing. All I’m going to do is ruin my mood and ruin my sleep cycle, panicking all night about something that will likely be addressed in some capacity first thing in the morning. This will be more satisfying if I learned about it first thing in the morning after a quality slumber.
2. Set expectations. I work for myself now; however, when it comes to our clients, the buck stops with me. I used to work in a corporate environment, reporting directly to executives. Here’s the deal: set expectations. You’re getting time sensitive emails at night or when you’re on personal time off? I would venture to guess that 9 times of out 10, this is because you’re feeding the beast by responding. Please see Item 1.
Team members contacting you when you’re scheduled for time off is extremely bad behavior. Don’t reward that!
If your team knows that you rarely respond when you’re off work hours, they will typically stop demanding immediate gratification. In my experience, I received the same emails at the same time late at night, except they had more respectful deadlines.
In the same breathe, give them an opportunity to be on good behavior. Give at least a week’s notice to critical team members about your absence. Make sure your team is set up for success while you’re gone. Coordinate any major meetings for after your return so there are few loose ends. You can show that you’re in control AND take time off.
3. Automatic Replies. Turn them on, identify a departure date and a return date. Clearly state that you’re unplugged without ANY email or phone. Period. Leave an emergency contact that IS NOT YOU, if necessary.
This is a simple thing to do and can really alleviate negative experiences. This includes your email and your voicemail. If people don’t know you’re gone, then they think you’re just not responding. This is not nice and creates unnecessary animosity. It’s also unprofessional. Do yourself and everyone else a solid and give notice that you’re gone.
4. Don’t feel bad. Look, it happens to everyone, you unsync, you set expectations, you notify – and there will always be a honey badger who won’t respect your time off. It’s taken me years; however, I have finally made the leap: I’ll deal with it when I get back. Period. Unless someone is having a catastrophic emergency on a project such as fire, water, or theft – I’m out. I love you all, I’m out. People may not like it, don’t make it your problem. You did everything you could to avoid that sentiment.
5. Be consistent. Use Items 1-4 and use them all the time. Inconsistency breeds discontent.
Consider this practice – and, I promise, when you’re spending your evenings, weekends, and vacations work free, your office will notice how your refreshed attitude improves their lives as well.
Happy Independence Day!
Want to see our team? Check us out at Integro Rehab!