Making work, work

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As a teenager in history class, when I first learnt that the right to work was protected by the Universal Declaration of Human rights, I was stunned.  

Report by Thembe Sachikonye

With condescension typical of adolescence, I wondered whether people who made this happen had any idea what they were talking about.

All I can say now is, thank God for adulthood!

Patrick Mukwamba and The Seasons had it right when they sang: Usambonyara basa raunoita, chero uchidya uchiguta.

The importance of having “fulfilling and dignified work under safe and healthy conditions, with fair wages affording a decent living for oneself and one’s family” cannot be overemphasised.

In Zimbabwe our unemployment figures have been said to be as high as 90%, which means that most of our adult population is robbed of the right to employment.

The Standard this week reported that Zimbabweans were against the taking over of companies under the indigenisation and empowerment programme, preferring instead the creation of jobs as a way of empowering them.

This seems logical and is a topic I would like to explore in more detail in the coming weeks.

But for today, I am thinking about the fact that for those in formal employment, the pressure is on.  Companies are hard pressed to contain costs, maximise output and put in place efficiencies that will protect shareholder value in this sluggish economy.

It’s tough all round and many are grateful to have the jobs they have and will do anything to preserve them.

But sometimes the cost of an unhealthy focus on work can become very high.  Family relationships are compromised and health can be damaged when we don’t balance our need to work with the equally important need to rest and relax.

Health experts are calling relaxation the single most important key to health and well-being.  It is the antidote to stress, which is known to contribute to contracting disease (heartofhealing.net).

Webmd.com reports that people are putting in more hours at work because they are afraid of job cuts and layoffs.
This only adds to stress levels and can become counterproductive.  There are several ways to safeguard one’s physical and mental health in this regard.

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to build rest and relaxation into one’s calendar.  As much one plans holidays in advance, one can bring this to a micro level and plan for sessions of rest in one’s week or even one’s day.

If one treats these appointments with oneself with as much respect and importance as one treats appointments with colleagues and clients, one will find this very effective.

Incidentally, this is also an effective tool for busy executives to find time for long-range planning.  When strategic thinking threatens to get swallowed up by the whirlwind of day-to-day execution, time must be carved out and held sacred, otherwise corporate strategic objectives will not be realised.

Another important consideration for work life balance is to ruthlessly edit the things that don’t add value.  When one looks at one’s life, one is likely to find several things, activities or relationships that simple sap one’s energy and give very little back.

One of the best tips for cutting down hours spent working while achieving more is to make one’s time at work most productive.

If one consciously watches oneself, one may find that one’s time at work is frittered away on activities that are not necessarily productive.

Email, sms and Internet are all useful tools for business, but they can become the biggest interrupters and time-chewers when they are not strictly controlled.

Once one is packing more usefulness into the eight hours of the day one will find that one gets more done and can eliminate most of the “overtime” one was putting in before.

Effective delegation is another way of making work life work better.  Delegation enables one to achieve results through other people while building their confidence and creating more time for them to pursue those work objectives which need their personal attention.

Finally, exercise also helps enormously in providing energy for daily tasks and in generating feelings of alertness and wellbeing, not to mention all the other health benefits it delivers.

At the end of the day, when one is healthier and happier, one is more useful to one’s company, one’s family and  oneself!

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