As a full-time engineer in 2000 I started a practice of taking time off at the end of the year. Depending on the year, and the amount of vacation time I had remaining, I would take an entire week off or more. However, over the years that week or two has shrunk, but the purpose remains the same. The last full week of the year, and the first day of the new year has always been a time to reflect on the outgoing year and focus on the new year.
Here are a few lessons from my time off at the end of the year.
1. We are more tired than we realize
“We are all exhausted” ~ John Maxwell
During one of my days off, I slept for nearly 16 hours of a 24-hour day, and then another 12 hours of the next day. Part of this was due to a sinus cold, but the truth is it was more than just the illness. I was exhausted! In addition to 16 hours of sleep, for 32 of the 48 hours in a two-day span, I laid in the bed, barely able to do anything. (Okay, so I binge watched some old movies and tried to keep up with my favorite sports teams). Just a few days before my time off I had worked the usual full day and into the night. I knew I was tired, that’s one of the reasons I planned a day off. Yet, even I had no idea I was this tired. The truth is most of us are more tired than we realize.
For CX team leads and managers, especially those that provide both pre and post-sales support, be aware of the signs that your team may be tired, burned out, or struggling with illness or issues related to fatigue. Encourage sustainable pace, time off, and personal health. Encourage options that promote rest. Joseph LaLonde offers these suggestions for the weary needing rest:
- Spending an afternoon soaking up the sun at the local beach
- Taking a nap while hanging in your hammock
- Shutting off all electronic devices and talking with your spouse [or partner]
- Sitting in your comfortable recliner with relaxing music playing on your home sound system
- Building a model airplane
LaLonde concludes: “Rest looks different for everyone. But everyone needs to find the way they rest, schedule it, and protect their time of rest.” Rest for your teams will look differently, but it could mean encouraging spaces between meetings, setting a “no meeting day”, reducing the daily number of scheduled meetings, encouraging or mandating minimum time off, and providing suggestions to help employees turn off the noise and chatter.
2. A nap is good, but a real good night’s sleep is a super power
When I woke up from 28 hours of sleep and additional four hours of rest I was feeling a lot better. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. I am not one that is opposed to taking a good nap, but using short naps as a way to avoid the deep rejuvenation that comes with a good night’s sleep is a mistake. After a great night of sleep, the work I was able to perform on the next working day was extremely powerful. My thoughts were brighter, more organized, focused, energized and dripping with creativity. I was able to escape mental fog and fatigue and move quickly between tasks and decisions.
The Department of Health and Human Services suggests the benefits of getting good sleep include:
- Get sick less often.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease.
- Reduce stress and improve your mood.
- Think more clearly and do better in school and at work.
- Get along better with people.
I believe making sure our teams and our team members are able to get sufficient rest, and a good night’s sleep will be essential to better outcomes and success. A well-rested team may look different for each organization, but team leads, managers and executives should be looking at meetings, schedules, case management, after hours rotations, tools and processes to help employees carve out meaningful recovery time, and meaningful days off.
3. Compassion needs to be a year-round thing
Despite holiday seasons being known for long lines, fights over deals and discounts, I experienced a lot of compassion during the holidays. People donated to charities at a good rate. People volunteered to help others. Neighbors were more friendly and neighborly. Good Samaritans provided food and gifts to strangers through giving trees, food banks, and other means. The displays of compassion, especially among family members, were super food to the soul and reminded me that we could all use more compassion. Not just during the holidays, but during all of our days. This includes long calls in February or weekend tickets in July, or the routine calls that outline our days.
Look for ways to increase the compassion within the team for one another, and the compassion and empathy the team has for customers, partners, and prospects. As Ariene Rains Graber reminds readers in the Upper Room: “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.” Kindness doesn’t cost much, but the rewards are life changing. Let’s try more kindness and compassion
4. We are moving too fast through life
In my community, the decorations for fall went up before the end of the summer and long before any “Halloween” events. Likewise, the lights for Christmas decorations were up before Thanksgiving, and down before New Year’s Eve. Even before the ball dropped, many stores already had Valentine’s Day gifts lining the store shelves. One day into the new year, my mentor said, “Let’s get some dates down, my schedule is already filling up.” We are going too fast and it shows up in our bodies, our minds, and in our relationships. As Customer Experience professionals, the speed and haste are impacting our responses and our cases with customers.
Slow down. Focus on delivering the best experience. Be sure that numbers, metrics, and self-imposed deadlines for “priority” issues do not drive negative and detrimental behavior.
5. Life is too precious of a gift to wait for “someday” to start living it
Enjoy loved ones now, they may be gone later. As I sat in church our minister asked for prayers for at least two families who buried loved ones just days before Christmas. As I heard the words, it was a reminder of how precious life is, and how unfortunate it can be that many times we are waiting on “someday” to start living that life. Yes, there is work to do and things that need to be done. Yes, the work of managing cases, dealing with problems and products, and improving the success of the company are extremely important. But, work hard at work, and take time to be with those you know and love. Work hard at work, and be sure that the work you are doing is fitting into the goals, dreams, and plans of life, now and to come. Someday shows up faster than you think, and can be gone in a blink. Taking timeout from work to have hobbies, learn new things, experience the joy and love of family, have dinner with friends, or fellowship with a group aren’t a waste of time or energy. In fact, having boundaries, spending time with loved ones, taking part in hobbies and fellowship will often revitalize your work and expand your skills and abilities.
6. There is room for more joy
The end of the year allowed me to put all of the hard work and hard times into perspective. If, like me, 2023 was really full and had a lot of hard things, it is all the more reason to fill 2024 with more joy. There is always room for more joy in our lives. As a CX professional, look for ways to experience and share joy with others, including and especially customers. Experiencing joy includes simple moments like waking up to catch an early sunrise, clocking out to see the sunset, taking a good vacation, reading a great book, or enjoying a nice meal in good company or alone. As I experienced moments of joy during the year it refilled my tank, increased my hope, and allowed me to weather life’s invariable storms. Be sure that you and your team make time to create more room for joy.