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The human connection is at the root of all satisfying work. None of us works in isolation, no matter what work we accomplish. The people we work with not only affect the quality of our accomplishments; they can greatly enhance our pleasure in the process.
I feel strongly about the people I work with and not only value and appreciate them. I love them. Just as I can’t stick with my work without becoming passionate, it is extremely important to me to deeply care about the people I work with, no matter what part they play.
The value we place on efficiency, which is largely a result of our greater ability to be efficient thanks to modern technology, too often overshadows the value of people in the workplace. Too much technology, too many buttons to press makes us frantic, and not necessarily more effective. It’s our humanity that determines how graciously we live at home, in our community, and at work today.
The pace of the modern workplace is decidedly speedy. In most work environments, work time spent on anything that isn’t highly focused, strategic, goal-oriented, and deal-closing is regarded as unproductive.
Inviting a colleague to lunch, inquiring how the weekend was, bringing flowers or cookies to someone on their birthday, buying a present for a newborn child, writing a thank you note to let someone know how much they are appreciated, making the office space attractive, all may seem unimportant or frivolous, but if we don’t live this way, we’re not in touch with our own spirit.
When speed and efficiency are our elixirs, we become irritable and impatient when we don’t achieve them. Why wait for the mail, when you can e-mail? Why take the time to meet with someone in person when you can call them?
Striving for efficiency is a lot like striving for perfection: It’s always just beyond our reach.
Real life has a tendency to interfere with our drive to be efficient: your child gets sick at school and you must leave work to take her to the doctor; a coworker is ill and you can’t complete a job without her; you’ve been working so hard for so long that you finally cast productivity to the wind and take a vacation, even though you have deadlines coming up. I’m efficient by nature. But I’ve learned that you pay a spiritual price for needing, more than anything else, to be efficient.
Working all the time isn’t efficient. It certainly uses up more time, but that doesn’t mean it produces results. Driving ourselves to work harder and harder, beyond the point of productivity, saps us of creative and physical energy. We may feel like we’re getting things done when we work long hours, but when we look at the quality of the work we’ve produced, we’re disappointed.
We need downtime – lots of it – and regularly. When I slow down and quiet down, I get in touch with my inner strength. We can enjoy our work better when we appreciate that it’s the process of work, not merely the results, that gives us satisfaction.
If the doing or work is not enjoyable, we are in a serious trap, because most of us do work hard and long hours. The little ways we bring refreshment to ourselves as we work renew our energy and help us carry on without discouragement or burnout. I’ve seen many examples of people who pushed too hard, whose identity was wrapped up in their achievements. They drove themselves crazy as well as everyone who worked with them. I have tremendous capacity for hard work, but I sustain my energy by creating regular diversions.
Relying as we do on transmitting messages via e-mail or by social media, we may forget that talking to real people, in person, is still one of the most satisfying and productive ways to work. Talking to another person is often the only way to get to the heart of a problem. We’re become so oriented to putting things down on paper or computer that we even forget, “Hey, I can call.”
Talking to people, either on the phone or, better still, in person (sharing lunch or having coffee together) not only provides the atmosphere conducive to clarifying a problem but also creates a relationship, which helps everything go more smoothly in the end. Good things result from physically being together.
The human connection is the foundation on which all productive work is built. Albert Einstein summed it up when he said, “A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received.”
Bob Mueller is senior director of mission & stewardship at Hosparus. The views in this column are those of the writer.