18 February 2009

ROWE-y: Doing Personal Stuff At The Office

The other day I learned an important lesson from my new colleague. The cool thing is that she just joined our team less than a month ago and she's 15 years younger than me.

Like most Gen-Xers, I was "raised" professionally by Baby Boomers who have a strong sense of values in terms of working hard, making sacrifices and strictly separating their work and personal lives. Except, of course, when they bring work home.

Lately, I've been realizing that I'm unconsciously trying to keep my personal life away from the office. For example
  • I'm slightly annoyed when a friend calls me at work
  • When I need to call the authorities or some service provider, I usually forget about it until their offices are closed anyway.
  • And when I check my personal email at the office, although I don't get out of my way to hide it, I do it discreetly.
Now to the good part:
Our boss announced that she was going home. Trying to be funny, I said to our young Padawan:
Cool, now that she's leaving, lets watch some YouTube.
For a split second she looked at me like I was the biggest idiot in the world. Or at least that was my interpretation of her facial expression. So I asked her what she was thinking. She simply said:
I didn't understand why you couldn't watch YouTube before.
Of course, I could have answered that, duh, it was just a joke. But I kept my big mouth shut realizing that I had an opportunity to learn something.

Now that I'm writing this I realize that I already made some progress today:
  • I saw an add for a nice apartment and called without second thoughts
  • I checked my personal email several times today
  • I had a long lunch
  • I had some fun with colleagues in the afternoon
  • I visited the PortableApps site (PDFTK and Toucan sound very promising and OpenOffice v3 is available)
Of course, I didn't count all of this as work time, so I know that I'm not cheating my employer. But today I didn't worry about people thinking that I might be slacking off. I was just having a good time.

I learned a lot from my Baby Boomer colleagues and mentors. But for now, I'll listen to some Millenials.

And thus concludes my second attempt at trying to become more ROWE-y (or become ROWE-ier).


Rachel - former HR blogger said...

Sometimes doing personal stuff is a great way to take a mini-mental break from the office.

I had an employee say to me this week. "My father retired at 65 and then died at 74" It hit me that he was only free from work for 9 years. As a 24 year old the thought of sitting in an office being unhappy all day for my whole life is scary. If enjoying life means taking 1 minute to check my personal email then sign me up.

Happy Employee said...

Like I said, at the moment I'd rather listen to and learn from Gen-Yers ;-)

My brain knew for a long time that if you're not able to live life to the fullest while working, you won't be able to do it once you're retired. Now I'm working hard at explaining it to my gut.

Thanks Rachel!

HR Good_Witch said...

Isn't it weird? I can work 3 hours extra in a day and still feel guilty if I want to make a 5 minute personal call.

Happy Employee said...

HR Good_Witch, seems like we're both suffering from similar symptoms. The worst is that I never had a boss who complained about me making personal phone calls or checking my emails.

I'm afraid sometimes I'm just my own worst enemy. But unlike Linkin Park, I believe there's an escape (see their song "Given Up").

Anonymous said...

Hi Happy Employee!

Its a nice post actually. You just taught a lot of employees there to take at least a minute to enjoy the workload.

Having so many tasks to do and yet, feeling the guilt of chatting with someone or emailing a friend or even, watching the concert of your favorite band thru YouTube.

Well, its not that you are wasting the time paid by your boss. Its just, sometimes, you need to unwind. And that you need to relax, to be able to do the tasks assigned to you.

Thanks for this post. Makes me think that I am not alone anyway.. :D

Promotional Products Blogger said...

You should read the 4 Hour Work Week, it's really interesting about how to have more of a personally fulfilling life before retirement instead of waiting.

Anyways, as for taking a mental break from work every so often, I agree. It keeps employees motivated.

Check out my blog for some more ideas www.employee-rewards-incentives.blogspot.com