Last year I surrendered the idea of having new year resolutions and instead followed – much like sheep – the trend of choosing one word. I’ve embraced the idea again this year (Fearless, by the way) but since I’m back at work I’ve started reflecting a bit on some observations I’ve made recently about work and workplaces. Since many people are crawling their way back to some semblance of work I thought I’d share my “how to work like a nice human being without putting unnecessary pressure on yourself” manifesto. So here it is…
1. Don’t be defined by your employment status. Full time, part time, temp, on maternity leave, looking for work, trying to get back into the workforce, working from home, stay at home parent. Wherever you sit, at the kitchen table surrounded by play doh, at the boardroom table or behind a cubicle where you are hoping no one can see you, it is probably because you are doing your best under whatever your circumstances. Do whatever you do in the context of your own life but don’t allow yourself to be bound by this. Trust that you are precisely where you are meant to be and know that your work matters.
2. It isn’t always easy to find your passion and to get paid for it. Just because every workplace meme tell you to “do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. There is a little bit of bullshit in this. Your passion might be your dog, your family, your art, your kite flying. The truth is, not everyone can get paid for their passion, so be at peace with this. Have passion, have a dream, have purpose – it is what sustains us but if what you do at work is because it pays the mortgage then that’s okay. Don’t do a job you despise, find something you enjoy and do well, work with integrity, find your work tribe, don’t stay if your Manager is a turkey, but understand that passion can take any form.
3. Take a stance against the single-use mentality and use a keep cup. Every. Single. Time.
4. Abandon the idea of balance. Forever we have been told we have to have work-life-balance but that narrative is too simplistic. Some days I have felt swallowed by imbalance and it was only when I came to the realisation that balance seesaws more than it stabilises. I might be needed at work more and so the laundry threatens to drown my family and then when I’m needed at home my work inbox implodes. Both require crisis management, just not concurrently. It’s refreshingly liberating when you accept this.
5. Don’t eat all the office Tim Tams.
6. In one go.
7. Work is not a competition to win at life. Run your own race, walk it if you want, but don’t compare your accomplishments with those around you. Comparisons are not only the thief of joy, they are unhealthy, unhelpful and will shrink your soul.
8. Stop apologising. Working mums stop apologising if you need to leave work early to pick up a sick child. Stop apologising if you can’t take on a new project, stop apologising for something that doesn’t warrant an apology.
9. When you stop apologising, stop also justifying the decisions you make. I can’t tell you the number of women (and it is ALWAYS women) who tell me “I need to finish work by 4pm because I can’t get my son into after school care and I really prefer to be home with him to help with the homework and because my husband is often travelling for work and….DEEP BREATH)
10. Refrain from using the term “throw under a bus”. Most. Annoying. Phrase. Ever.
11. Look at your colleagues, your peers, your barista and ask them “Are you okay?” Not just on days when the internet tells us it’s “R U OK Day.”
12. Never be rude to the Receptionist. And also they are probably the ones buying the Tim Tams.
13. Definitely don’t be rude to the IT department. They have all the power. Literally.
14. The hours you work, the times you start and finish are not relative to your productivity.
15. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for the hours you work or don’t work, or what time you start or leave.
16. Remember to use your “indoor voice”.
17. There is so much noise around gender in the workplace, and that’s a good thing but sometimes not everything is about gender . Do your own thing, work your own way, don’t change your style, your outfit or your values because of the gender in the room. Find you own tone and your own voice. You are enough.
18. Vulnerability is a scary place but it is also what makes us human. A workplace with humanity is a good place to work and being vulnerable at work is not a sign of weakness.
19. When you mess up and at some point we all do, have the good grace to say sorry.
20. I’m saddened by the stories I hear of people tearing each other down but I’m especially saddened when other women tear other women down. Remember the sisterhood? Embrace it, foster it and protect it like you own it. Blowing out someone’s else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter. Don’t be the mean girl.
Lastly, beware of the “reply all” email feature thing….rarely does “reply all” end well so proceed with caution.
Remember this, there will be problems and you will solve them. Let go of the what doesn’t probably matter, be kind. Look out for one another, it’s a wild and crazy ride and we’ve only got one ticket.