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A human working culture

We’ve all done it, squeezed a meeting into a colleague’s last remaining gap for a lunch break, or set a conference call for an unsociable hour. Yet we’ve also all been the victim of such logistical moves. Because the problem is, in a mega-busy global working environment like ours, we increasingly accept that this sort of thing is normal and needs to happen, so we can all get everything done.

And perhaps at times it does, but not without considering if there are other possible options and not without asking.

Politeness aside, how many of us properly acknowledge the priorities each other has outside of the office, those priorities which help shape the people we are and often conflict with the demands of our working lives. How many of us raise an eyebrow at the person who leaves to go to the gym, or the parent who goes because of childcare issues. We even sometimes fail to acknowledge the shame of a colleague missing a family celebration because of work demands.

These issues comes up a lot but I think we could all be part of changing what is regularly seen as acceptable and just the norm. We could all speak up when meetings are set at anti-social times; share our human selves as well as our work selves to create a human culture where other commitments are given due credit, time and appreciation.

This requires more of us being seen to have a life and priorities outside of work and everyone being encouraged to socialise – perhaps during work hours – around interests we have in common.  Many of us say we want this kind of culture. In large part we have to change it for ourselves to make it a reality.

Attaining a human working culture depends so much on trust, and of course a focus on what’s achieved rather than time spent achieving it. It’s about give and take from the top down and bottom up, as well as between colleagues.

Whereas unfortunately right now many of us tend to take for granted people will fall in line with the call that’s been set without thought for international time differences, or back-to-back meetings that barely allow for a comfort break.

Sure, there will be untimely calls like that and jam-packed days like that too. But if we don’t speak up than they’ll continue to be accepted as the norm and our non-work selves will feel continually squeezed to accommodate for our work ones.

As we move into a new calendar year, many of us with resolutions to do things differently, let’s all challenge the assumption that calls can be made any time of day and night, and that busy has to mean fast-paced throughout every minute of the day. We can all play a part in making these incidents unusual rather than usual.

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3 Comments.


  1. I think that it is key for employers to recognise the need to adopt better HR policies to continue to improve the work / life balance for employees. It is clear that those that don’t will continue to struggle with the retention of staff, who move to employers who do offer a greater human working culture (which thankfully is increasing all of the time).

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  2. January 18, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Hi Matthew
    Thanks for you comment – I agree with you that policies are important but once they are in place we all play a part in ensuring we have a culture that embraces the polices and brings them to life….with both we truly can achieve a culture that supports people in work and outside it

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  3. January 18, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Further to your comment about the importance of being seen to have a life, one of my favorite quotes from Nigel Marsh:

    “We can change society’s definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well-lived looks like.”

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