Kennebec Valley Chamber

Serving the Kennebec Valley, Maine Region

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Friday Report ~ March 25, 2016

"Put down the phone and slowly back away..." - I had to yell at three employees this week. Well, to clarify, it wasn't yelling, I never raise my voice, but it was a stern talking to.

Let me back up. I don't take my cell phone upstairs at night. Partially because by the end of the day it needs charging, but more so because the emails come in to my phone at the strangest hours. I get correspondence from some of this area's most productive leaders at 2 AM, 4 AM etc. on any day of the week - weekends are not excluded. This is largely due in part, I am sure, to the fact that these folks are extremely busy. By the time they get a few quiet moments, they have to utilize this time to get caught up on the mail. If my phone were on my nightstand, there is no doubt that the buzz would wake me up, or at least alter my dreams and force me into dreams about work (instead of me winning a Grammy.)

In a Forbes online article entitled "5 Signs you might be a workaholic" author Deborah Lee points out"Work ethic is an American value that runs deep, so deep that Americans put in more hours than workers in other wealthy countries and are more likely to work nights and weekends."I know that I am a confirmed workaholic. I am so connected all the time that I never really unplug from the job. The article identifies 5 signs that you too may be afflicted.

You work longer than your colleagues - Are you there well past closing each day?

You can't turn off - Do you log in to work from home? Do you answer emails at all hours of the night?

Your body feels unwell - Are you working while sick? Do you skip meals to meet deadlines?

Your relationships are strained - Does stress creep into your home life?

You tie your worth to your work success - Does your happiness depend on that promotion or project success?

As I said, I am challenged with this illness and do my best to actively seek time "off" from work. It's harder when you love what you do. I like to believe the chamber is a fun place to work and I am confident that the chamber staff is in agreement with me. We get to spend our days being creative, talking to the fantastic Chamber members and there is a significant amount of laughter on a regular basis. The work is not stressful and although we have deadlines, we are working very hard to be prepared well in advance to reduce any potential crises. In fact it is so much fun doing what we do, we tend to get caught up in our projects. This may lead to an obsessive stage when folks are to "into" their work to stop. On a side note, I have actively discouraged other employees from having email access on their phones to avoid seeing them fall into the same trap.

So, back to my employees. I had a review with an employee who recently had to have remote access from home while recuperating. That was very helpful, but she is still logging in from home and working on her days off. I had an employee earlier this week who was clearly not feeling well. She desperately tried to stay at work. Her commitment was commendable. She was not worried about losing vacation time, she truly wanted to ensure her projects were being handled properly. I had a review with another employee this week who is doing incredible work, but it has been noted that she is working through lunch and not getting out of the office for a break on a regular basis. I yelled at all three of them.

I will admit to being thrilled that I have employees who are truly passionate about their work. I know from experience that they will stay late or come in early whenever asked. If the deadline is looming, they will be here until the job is done. It is an amazing feeling as a manager, to know what this team is capable of. It's important however to make sure that your employees are staying healthy. Having the greatest employees on the planet doesn't help when they get ill or find the job too stressful.

So look into your employee's work habits. Identify those that are working the long hours and try to help them realize that the long term benefits of an occasional short break are priceless. I am going away this weekend and have already planned what work I can do in the early hours before folks wake up around the house. I may try to simply unplug and not think about work. We'll see how that challenge unfolds.

I'll email you all on Sunday night - :)