Creative Ways Of Not Becoming A Zombie
We are all familiar with that “zonked out” feeling. The one you get after an endless Greyhound bus ride or airplane flight - too tired to read or do anything useful, but too wired to sleep.
That is as good a definition of being a zombie as any and that is what we are going to take a look at here - are you one? Have you become so tracked into working and keep such ridiculous hours that you simply cannot function anymore?
Well, this is for you
Aside our tongue in cheek definition above, a complete and full interpretation of being a work zombie is hard to find, but one that comes closest is; just going into work and going through the motions - with no engagement, enthusiasm or sense of purpose.
So how do you know if you have succumbed to this modern day scourge - take our little test here and see how many of these apply ...
- Are you allowed to browse the internet at work?
- Do you have work friends?
- By the end of the day, how do you feel leaving work?
- Would a $10,000 rise change your work satisfaction?
- Is your company an industry leader?
- How busy are you at work?
How did you do then? There are no right answers, but sometimes it is enough just to ask the questions to realise how out of kilter your situation really is.
There are a whole host of symptoms and consequences which result from feeling this way. From both the employer, and the employees point of view, it is not a great place to be at all.
Lost productivity; which is mainly the result of work zombieism, results in wasted time, wasted money and employee burnout - this leads to high staff turnover, a resulting lack of skills and knowledge being passed on.
This, in turn, leads to unmotivated staff just going through the motions of work, with no real sense of what they are doing and hanging out the jobs they can do for as long as possible, just waiting for the day to be over. Decisions are poor or non-existent leading to poor implementation and feedback which means getting unreliable data and everyone just hoping for the best outcome without really driving it or even being aware of what that outcome is!
A disjointed workflow results, with everyone compensating for everyone else and trying to read situations and interpret the clues coming from other, equally confused and rudderless staff and colleagues. There are mixed strategies, too many tools spread out to meet the widespread views and incoherent policies that are being worked on and all this results in “information silos.” This is where one part of an organisation is following a completely different path to that of the other parts of the organisation, whilst being totally oblivious and disinterested in cooperating with the other parts.
Ultimately all of these symptoms lead to low credibility with customers and peer companies because this type of problem will get noticed quickly and jumped on by competitors. They will notice that the company has become less creative and averse to changing direction or strategy, (mainly because it no longer has one!) deadlines will often start to be missed and scope creep will occur. This is where a project, or company mission even, does not have a properly laid out, formulated and documented, defined and controlled purpose.
Help Me - I Think I’m Falling
As you can see, this is a horrendous problem to address, where do you start? It is a classic “chicken and egg” situation - which came first - the disorganisation or chaos which caused everyone to wing it or give up - or everyone winging it and giving up which caused the chaos?
Whatever the reasons we can actually address the outcome with a few tweaks and some honesty. Unless you are the CEO or President you are unlikely to be able to change the situation overnight but here is a list of ten ideas which might help to get the ball rolling - this is your “work zombie antidote”:
- The first thing to do is to re-focus or re-engage yourself - get rid of all the busyness you are doing, just to look like you are doing something, and looking as if you are getting the job done. This might make others examine their own situation and collaborate with you; hopefully starting a chain reaction.
- Get shot of all distractions - rearrange your work situation so that you are not constantly interrupted, either physically, or digitally. Hold the phones, the Facebook, the emails and the “open-door policy” during your working day and allot specific times to deal with these things. Make this a habit and it will become natural and accepted.
- When dealing with email, work on sending stuff to only those who need to know - if you start copying stuff to everyone, they acknowledge it, or come up with some answer or bright idea you never asked for, and dealing with that then becomes a time and effort waster too.
- Cut down on meetings and emails on projects - use a Google Docs-type approach, where everyone involved can just add their contributions to the whole, and everyone gets to view, comment, amend or delete, in real time, without the need for endless discussion and procrastination about decisions.
- Get some form of praise going - an undervalued and despondent employee, freelancer, associate, colleague or peer, will have no incentive or motivation to improve or give their best to you. Recognise and reward great work, ideas and successes, by coming up with some meaningful system of rewards and incentives.
- Hire some proper managers - a great manager can make or break a department - even a company - hire the best you can and invest in that talent to develop it; create loyalty and empathy and see the results you want soar.
- Allied to this is promote and build leadership skills. This will go a long, long way to getting everyone back on track - a leader who can fix goals, challenge assumptions, work around problems, build teams and use the strengths and weaknesses of his or her people will be able to pull your Zombies around.
- Give the staff the tools they need - this is not just making sure the technology is up to date and functional but sales courses, administrative systems and all forms of functionality are fluid, joined up, and staff are fully conversant with them.
- Get some outside activities going - team building exercises outside the workplace have their critics but it is a superb way of recharging the batteries, and away from the workplace employees and staff are more relaxed and more liable to give you some missing insights and ideas.
- Keep yourself up to date with trends - nothing is worse than working with someone who is perceived to be out of date - it is soul destroying to the whole team if they can see clearly what their management can’t - strive to stay that one step ahead.
We hope that this has been a helpful exercise for you. Whether you are a member of management, a team member, a solo employee, freelancer or student, the whole “zombieism” thing impacts on you in many ways.