Corporate life sounds fancy if you look from outside. If you are part of it, the situation is very different.
The days in the office look like running a marathon. There are (useless) meetings, work to be done in between and emails to reply to. Usually, this doesn’t fit in the 8 hours working schedule and the majority of people I know having office jobs do overtime. The troubling fact about this is that it’s seen as the norm! No wonder people in the corporate world complain about stress, depression, burnout or no personal time.
From my personal experience – having been through all the situations I mentioned above – I came to understand a few things about how to play this game without overstretching it:
1. The company can survive without you – which means no one is irreplaceable – not even the CEO – and the work can be done even when you’re not there. So, don’t take yourself too seriously and allow yourself to have a life outside work.
I often see guilt in the behaviour of people taking holidays: the longer the period, the deeper the guilt. Which they compensate by being available to reply to emails or sort things out even on vacation. The extreme behaviour can go up to not having holidays at all due to how important people believe their work is for the company. Someone very practical said on social media that, if you work hard enough, you can replace depression with exhaustion. And they were damn right!
2. Emails will never cease to fill your Inbox – If you look at a corporate job simplistically, you got a degree and you’re a specialist in some area in order to send emails for the rest of your life (I don’t want to be dramatic, just pointing a fact). Meaning you need to master the art of prioritisation.
Trying to get to a state where you have a clean inbox is unrealistic. The goal is not to answer all the emails you get, on the spot, rather to action first those that bring value. It’s okey for non-important communication to wait in the queue. Your job is not to play ping-pong using emails and be fast in replying, but to deliver value and ensure clear communication with everyone involved.
3. Time-boxing helps you get work done – what does it mean? It means your ‘To do list’ should be in your diary!
The calendar is not only for planning meetings, but for organising your daily schedule. If you keep the diary only for meetings, the available slots fill soon be filled in with new meetings and you will realise there is no time left for doing the work. Which is actually what should matter the most.
Another important reason why you should try to have a delimited time period when you’re doing a specific activity is to use your time in the office more efficient and avoid procrastination. There will always be interruptions of urgent/non important stuff during the day, but as long you know where you are with your work and you have it planned, it will be easier to adjust.
4. Not taking things personally is a proof of professional maturity – We are all humans run by emotions and sometimes we forget that, at work, we all play different roles and represent different interests. So, don’t get consumed and frustrated by others’ behaviour or how certain situations develop as long as you do your part to the best of your abilities. Setting the right boundaries for yourself and the others in the office can do wonders to your sanity.
5. Take breaks and go out to avoid being drained by the end of the day – The office is an artificial environment for humans to be in for a long time, away from the daylight and the sun, sat in a cubicle or a desk, connected to technology more than to people and without too much fresh air. It’s alienating and unnatural. That’s why taking breaks and getting out of the office during working hours will actually boost your energy and concentration. On the contrary, working long hours without interruption can damage your physical and mental health in so many ways.
All in all, as with everything else in life, balance is the word to keep in mind.
Passing the ball to you, what other ways do you have to cope with everyday corporate routine?
Remember to take care of yourself first and foremost,