Hey leaders, who can relate to this scenario? You’ve spent your whole day in back-to-back meetings, and every meeting has ended with the need for a follow-up meeting to decide on the next steps. You’re bursting at the seams, and the hustle of a workday has left you no room to breathe. 5 pm rolls around, and most of the office has cleared out except for you, and your trusted few. So you gather like the knights of the round table and for the next 30-40 minutes, you get the work done. This power team is focused, aligned, and most importantly- completely available to be there after hours. I get it- things get done in these after-hours sessions, and in our busy work lives- we need to get things done.
However, what do these after-hours power sessions cost? Team cohesiveness? Yes. Trust? Yes. But more importantly, they negatively affect your organization's inclusive workplace culture. Here's how.
WHO? The story is that the only people rushing out that door at 5 pm is parents rushing to pick up kids, or the least engaged workers happy to end another day on the grind. Those narratives are no longer accurate. Consider this short, (and far from a complete) list of just a few everyday people who appreciate ending the day on time:
People who have commitments outside of the workplace.
People who rely on transit or other rideshare arrangements.
People who work other jobs.
People who attend support group meetings, therapy, and medical appointments after work.
People who are responsible for the wellbeing and care of ageing parents.
People who invest in their own health and wellness through fitness classes, outdoor activities, social events, and personal time.
People who have pets at home waiting to be walked, fed, and cared for.
People who are attending night school.
People who volunteer after hours.
People who need to engage in basic self-care – shower, eat, rest and decompress (Ahem- this should be everybody).
People who have children (Yes, parents like to get home to their little people).
I guarantee that most of your employees will fall on this list. So the trusted few that are working past the end of the workday, what are they sacrificing to be included in your workplace? How long can an employee ignore their family, their pets, their own health and wellbeing before they burn out? What is the experience of the employees who can’t work past the end of the workday? How does being excluded affect their engagement, self-worth, and ultimately their desire to remain employed with your team?
WHY? Ask yourself this, why does the particular work need to be completed before the next day, without all the stakeholders present? Does your team make their best decisions at the end of a long, tiring day, or at the start of a fresh day? Do you make your best decisions with all stakeholders present, or with a select few? What happens to a team when decisions are made with a small minority group versus the whole? Teams thrive on trust, and decisions made outside of the team are often sure-fire ways to break down team trust. Inclusive workplace culture strives to remove barriers to fully engaging in the workplace. Working past the clock, that's a barrier, but is it bona fide?
WHAT? Inclusive workplaces are ones where leaders consciously test their own practices against the definition of inclusion. If inclusion is being invited to participate fully- and after-hours meetings exclude many of your employees, then after-hours meetings are not inclusive. In fact, if the only way employees can attend these meetings is to sacrifice their own wellbeing or the wellbeing of someone they love, then the cost of being included is too high. If we seek to create healthy, inclusive workplaces, employees cannot be forced to choose work over their own well-being.
ACTION IT: This week when the need to engage in 5 pm power session spurs, select from these three simple practices that meet your operational needs and cultivate workplace inclusion (I especially recommend #4):
Open your calendar and schedule a priority meeting with your team. Make sure the meeting occurs during work hours, but if necessary, schedule a working lunch for urgent issues.
Craft an email outlining the urgency around the issue, and ask your team to come to the next team meeting prepared for discussion, decision and action.
Canvas your team for ideas to help reduce the need for meetings outside the workday. Find creative ways to be more productive during your 9-5.
Close your laptop and go home. Even leaders need to rest, recharge and take care of their well-being.