Dead by smart working

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We had a hall-hands meeting yesterday afternoon. We gave a few updates on what’s going on together with a glimpse of our financial status after the first semester.

While I put together the presentation, I looked at the Profit and Loss, which was pretty good.

We are running smoothly as a company. The usual slowdown is because of August, but we will recover in the last quarter. I have been there and seen that.
From a General Manager’s perspective, there’s not much to worry about.
That’s a typical case where figures do not tell the whole story. We are indeed okay from a financial standpoint, but what happens inside the company?

I headed to our main dashboard and looked at working reports from Harvest. Plenty of overtime.

That’s not good.

I started thinking about that and thought about a few weak signals I got from the endless calls I have every day. I heard people saying they did not have lunch, and it also happened to me a few times. I heard people who could not go to the bathroom because of conference calls. I looked at my email inbox, and the number of emails I received after 6 pm was too high.

So from where is overtime coming?

I think there are two main reasons. Sometimes you have very demanding clients that may lead you to overtime. In other cases, it is just not being strong enough to enforce boundaries.

Both of the cases do not depend on people suffering from them.

In the first case, you want to retain the client, make him happy, and avoid conflicts.

The second case is just a side effect of smart working, remote working, or working from home.

I have read dozen of definitions of smart working and remote working. I do not find any of them satisfying.

I will generally talk about “working from home.”

Working from home is like placing a marble on a slightly inclined plane. You start establishing some well-defined boundaries between work and personal life. The marble starts gaining speed and kinetic energy. It’s a slow process; you do not notice it until it’s too late.

You quickly find yourself in the situations I was talking about before.

It does not happen when you work in the office because there are well-defined breaks that you can’t avoid—commuting to and from the office, lunch, and coffee breaks. Those things impose a break, even if it is a boring break like commuting is.

It is not easy to set those boundaries when you work from home. You jump out of the shower and sit in front of the computer. After a few days, you are entirely sucked up.

Again, that’s no good at all.

As a General Manager, I have to work on this during my holidays to get it fixed when we come back. It is imperative. It is not sustainable in the long run.

All senior people in the company must commit to this. We must protect our people from clients and themselves when they cannot. As senior managers, we have to take the hit. It is our responsibility to bring that overtime if needed.

Being a senior manager means staying in the front line.

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