An Ode to Not Checking Work Emails on Weekends and Holidays

Photo by Ivan Samkov

We bring work to home and home to work.

We find it challenging to keep our professional and personal lives separate.

People say you should never talk about your personal problems at work; that your coworkers can use that info to bring you down. You never know who is plotting against you to climb that corporate ladder.

When it comes to bringing work home, though, things are a bit more relaxed. Many workers are guilty of committing this sin of not switching off post work-hours. We take it for granted that our loved ones would understand. No one is going to plot against you. There is no ladder to climb, except when the ceiling fan needs cleaning up, we need to fix a bulb or pull out something from a top storage unit.

The number one red flag that you are a workaholic is that you check your work emails during post-work hours and holidays. There is no urgency at work. There are no production issues. But there you are, checking your email like you are checking your fridge for something new.

I was guilty of this too.

I used to check my email after work hours. I wanted to know if my bosses replied. Sometimes the replies to my emails were neutral, sometimes positive, and sometimes negative. As expected, the negative responses were joy killers. Imagine facing anxiety during your day off. It is more than enough to ruin the rest of your day.

This is why I stopped checking work emails outside work hours.

Armed with the new understanding that checking emails would wreck my breaks, I consciously started staying away from work emails after the scheduled hours, on weekends and holidays. I would pull myself back from checking them. It was never easy, especially when you are anticipating a reply to an important email. But I would tell myself that enjoying the moment is of prime importance. If I were to find out I had tons of work for the next working day, I would spend my breaks coming out with an action plan. Breaks are not for making work plans! It is meant for rejuvenation.

Switching off from work made my holidays more enjoyable and relaxing. I was able to pursue my hobbies and also spend quality time with family.

I find many people around me committing this sin of checking emails post-work hours now.

A friend, during his vacation, worked almost every single day. He couldn’t stop checking his emails. Many like him tend to forget to create boundaries at work. It sends a message to your organization. That you, as a worker, are ready to work anytime, even if it is your vacation.

It is not the company’s responsibility to look after your well-being. They will never beg you to look after your own mental or physical health. They will never stop you from working after the scheduled hours or on holidays. That onus is on you!

I know many in their late 20s and early 30s who complain of backache. Each one of them works 10+ hours every day, and they have wrecked their health in the process. We overwork ourselves because we are brimming with energy, and we want to do impressive work. It is only over the years that the side effects start to show. People in their 30s and 40s are increasingly facing heart attacks. Stress is a significant contributor. There is no time to sit back and enjoy the pleasures of life. A fast-paced life only contributes to more stress.

The easiest way to kickstart your journey towards physical and mental well-being is by separating your personal and professional lives. Learn to switch off from work after the scheduled hours. If you cannot complete your work on time, learn proper time management, or better yet, ask for more time. Extra time for a project submission means improved deliverables.

The first step to post-work wellness is to sign out from your work emails.

Please do it for yourself. You highly deserve it!

An Ode to Saying Please and Thank You at Work

Say Thank You at Work
Photo by Polina Zimmerman

How often have we dealt with authoritative emails at work?

The ones that sound unnecessarily aggressive and bossy, instead of courteous yet firm.

After my previous rant on surviving performance reviews, I looked into a couple of emails of supervisors generally well-liked at the office, and those who weren’t.

The ones who were liked (Batch A), were polite and empathetic in their emails:

  • Could you please finish this task by Saturday?
  • Thank you for completing this!

In contrast, the ones who weren’t liked (Batch B), wrote their emails like this:

  • Do this by Saturday!
  • Dead silence after completing any task

See the difference? Would you like to get emails from Batch B? No one is fond of unnecessary aggression.

It is such a refresher nowadays to hear supervisors being polite. A “Thank you” or a “Please,” even if formal makes you look humane and not cold and distant. It motivates employees to do better. Politeness does not mean being weak. You can be firm and polite!

Something Batch A does often (to show the emergency of the situation):

  • Please send this across by Saturday! This is very important.

No unwanted aggression here. A simple message that conveys the seriousness of the task. Most people are smart enough to get the gist of such a message.

Employees perform their best when their supervisors are empathetic and kind. The attrition rate (the rate at which people leave) is always high in companies with bad managers. A 2016 survey in India showed that employees are willing to stay longer and work harder if they were well appreciated in their companies. About 59% felt they were unappreciated by their bosses. That’s more than half of the survey sample! No small number there. Sometimes, all it takes is a “thank you” or a “please,” to make things better.

So why are we so stingy with appreciating others or using cordial language at work?

Each supervisor is shaped by their own experiences in the corporate world. Some might have faced similar situations, a boss being too self-centered or supercilious or manipulative, and they end up thinking this is the only way to climb up the career ladder.

Sadly, this is partially true.

A recent study disturbingly stated that narcissistic, manipulative people tend to become CEOs faster (29% more) than their less self-entitled peers. We look at people at the top for inspiration, and we see a lot of them acting entitled and impolite, and we think “That’s how we become successful.

But is it really? Is this the downside of being successful? Should we dump our emotions, empathy, kindness in the garbage in the quest for power?

I have been in the corporate world for so long, and I have seen and experienced so much, that the first thought when I see a CEO or a leader on LinkedIn is not Wow! I want to be this person,” but “How many people did you demotivate and destroy to reach where you are? How many fake stories have you cooked up to save yourself, by shifting the blame onto your juniors? How good are you at playing politics in office?” This seems very dark and harsh I know. But it is mostly the truth. There are exceptions but the many leaders I have seen have sold their souls to the corporate devil. They will do anything to get on the super boss’ good books and won’t hesitate to drag anyone else down in the process.

Sometimes, from what I have seen, I feel it’s best to stay away from the rat race.

So you don’t end up becoming a rat.

An Ode to Working for the Right Company (MNC or Startup)

Take a look at Twitter, and you will see never-ending debates on whether startups or MNCs are the best.

Having worked in both, here are my 2 cents.

MNCs or established, large companies might be the better option for you if you want:

  • Higher pay: Big companies are willing to pay the best of the best for talent
  • Better job security: They have been in the business for a longer time and are more stable
  • Well equipped work space: They have the money to invest in the best tools and resources needed for upgrading your work
  • Better perks: Health benefits, freebies

Cons:

  • Office politics: This was the worst part for me.
  • Feeling undervalued: There are a lot of employees, and it is practically impossible for the higher order to listen to everyone. Your opinions or inputs tend to be given less importance.
  • Not flexible: Most of the companies want you to stick to their rules. Employees are rarely consulted on what *they* want.

Startups or smaller companies might be the better option if you want:

  • More job satisfaction: The pride you feel when your company is growing is unmatched. You played a role in it, and that is a huge achievement.
  • Less office politics
  • A tightly-knit workspace where everyone is easily reachable including the CEO
  • A job where you are valued

Cons:

  • Lesser pay: Small companies can hardly compete with MNCs when it comes to offering the best pay package
  • High pressure: Lots of work, less work-life balance
  • Cash-strapped: Hardly any freebies; access only to those tools that are absolutely essential for your work

Of course, this does not apply to all the MNCs and Startups out there. Each one is different. But from my experience, this is what I have encountered.

Honestly, I feel everyone should try both at least once to see what it is like.

Then go the Marie Kondo way perhaps – choose the one that sparks joy.

To finish this off, posting a snippet I saw on Quora. It made me smile.

Job Satisfaction

An Ode to Unknowingly Being Productive

By Squarecomics

I often wonder why people complain, “I haven’t done anything productive today.”

It is practically impossible.

Why? Let me explain.

What is productivity? By definition, it means, causing or providing a good result.

Anything and everything you do is productive because unconsciously, we are all learning and evolving from even the smallest tasks that we do.

Yes, we are always learning. And learning is productive. I’m not talking only about creative classes or actively honing new skills for work. Those are the things we take up consciously. The visibles.

I am talking about learning from things around you. The invisibles.

  • Learning a different perspective, a different way of looking at things. This could be from books, even a show you randomly watched, or some random post on the internet including a meme!
  • Learning how peaceful it can be to sit and stare at nature for a while
  • Learning to forgive and/or forget
  • Learning to solve your issues
  • Learning your family’s needs
  • Learning how to interact better
  • Learning to step back a bit and breathe
  • Learning new ideas

The list goes on.

Jennifer Aniston had famously quoted “No regrets, only lessons” indicating we learn even from our mistakes, if not today then tomorrow.

But the point is, to many of us, these little things don’t count. Probably because these changes are not happening aggressively, screaming for our attention. These changes are very silent. And peaceful. But the thing I find most astonishing is that over time, they compound. Each little change is like a building block, contributing towards forming the person that we will eventually become.

It is only years from now, when you look back, do you realize how much you have changed in this process of learning from everyday things.

You have evolved. That I think, is a beautiful thing to reflect on.