Guess what? I’ve taken time off the last week because I’ve been sick. And you know what? My business hasn’t suffered for it. At all.
I’ve never been one to take time off when I’m sick. As long as I can walk, I can work. This is what we do isn’t it? We drug ourselves up and carry on because we don’t want to be judged for taking time off sick. We don’t want to inconvenience colleagues by making them step in to cover us. We have deadlines, meetings, presentations, clients to see.
If you’re a working mum, you worry twice as much that your colleagues will think you’re skiving. That you’re always leaving early to pick up your kids or coming in late because of a “school thing”. That they’ll start to question whether you’re as dedicated as you were before you had kids.
When my kids were little, I use to say I couldn’t take time off when I was sick because I needed the days in reserve for when my kids were sick. Seriously. I also worked a four-day week but no-one in the office knew when my day off was as opposed to my
working-from-home day because I believed if the company was being flexible with me, I needed to be flexible too. Even if that meant working on my day off. Of course, I thought nothing of doing those long weeks or staying late in the office on my days in.
Hands up - who's been the perfect employee?
Sound familiar? I don’t know about you but I made a lot of concessions as an employee.
Hands up everyone who's rolled holiday into the next year? I’ve lost track of how many 60+ hour weeks I’ve worked for other people. Times I’ve spent five hours in my car driving to and from a different office where my company then needed me to work a ten-hour day. Meals I’ve wolfed down in motorway services and airports. And when push came to shove what happened? Two redundancies. Tiny bonuses after the C-suite took 97% of the bonus pool. Watching a boss make over 30% of our employees redundant while giving himself a salary so big it was an industry talking point. We work ourselves into the ground to prove what a great employee we are only to find out how expendable we actually are. All of those experiences have added up and I reached a point where I was done with it. It is the biggest reason I became self-employed.
My new way of thinking
I’ve spent a lot of the last week in bed. I’ve slept, sometimes up to seven hours during the day, and listened to a lot of radio plays on BBC Sounds. I’ve made the kids wait on me and I’ve lived off Starbucks frappuccinos and tomato soup. This is what I’ve not done:
Responded to emails
Worried about people being “inconvenienced” by my illness
Forced myself to do “just a little bit of work”
Apologised to anyone for being sick!
I’m a huge believer that our jobs are here to benefit our lives not to run them. These last few days have been real proof to me that I finally have gotten that balance right. For the first time in my working life, I feel in charge of my working life. I don’t feel the need to put anyone above my health. I know my clients won’t be an issue and if I need to some sessions, we’ll just make it up the next week.
I’ve finally realised that me taking time off work when I need to won’t make the world grind to a halt. And I can’t help but believe that I would not have come to that realisation if I was still an employee. I've been working for over 35 years now and it’s taken me running my own business to get a firm grip on my “importance” in my work, to get my ego in check, to let go of the fear and the need to be constantly performing. The buck stopping here has helped me realise that taking time off sick doesn’t mean I need to be filled with guilt and worry. It means I’m doing my best to look after myself so that I can get back to feeling able to help my clients with full focus and energy. Employee me would have grabbed the flu tablets and gotten on with it. CEO me has done what I needed in order to feel better as soon as possible.
Habits we don't want as CEO's of our own business
Those concessions we make as employees have a nasty way of becoming habits we carry over into running our own businesses. Some of those habits that could be affecting your business include:
Not challenging the way things are done
Seeking approval before taking action
Staying in our own lane
Worrying about how others view our work
Not taking adequate time off to recharge
Subscribing to the world of “busyness”
Feeling the need to constantly be performing at top-level
Not taking time off sick
Did you acquire any of these bad habits in your 9-5 life? They may have been things that made you a great employee from your employer’s perspective but they are habits and beliefs that can stop your business progressing the way you want it to.
So here’s my question to you today – are you running your business like you’re still an employee?