4 Things I’ve Learned About Business Outside of 9 to 5
I was recently invited to an IT meeting in Florida as a guest. The team had just completed a major ERP system update which, for those who don’t speak tech geek, is not an easy task for a relatively small team. But as the group sat together in the lobby bar one night, you would have never guessed they had just been through months of keyboard-smashing stress.
The room was full of smiles and friendly taunting, making it clear this is a group that gets along both inside and outside the office. It’s a bond that has been strengthened over years of after work drinks. And, in the end, getting to know each other on a personal level has given them more of a reason to support each other when times get tough at work; not the fear of getting in trouble. At least, this was their boss’s theory.
“I believe that this,” The Director of IT explained, finishing a sip of his beer and pointing toward his team. “Is just as important as what goes on in the office.”
It made me think about a few valuable things I’ve learned outside the busy hours of 9 to 5.
1. Nothing beats a diverse team
Hours: 5:30pm to 9pm
What happened: Last year, some colleagues and I started going to a bar about once a month for pub trivia. We typically brought along a healthy mix of functional areas (HR, finance, communications, etc.), generations (millennial to baby boomer), and genders. Some of us were born and raised in Ohio and others were new to the state or country.
Our rival was a team called “The Neighbors” because they were all, well, neighbors. They were about the same age and interacted as though they hung out on a regular basis doing neighborly things.
Even though the other team had a long history together, we won almost every time.
What I learned: It was our team’s diversity that led us to victory. When the HR people were stumped by questions on foreign currency, our finance people jumped in. When the millennials couldn’t quite remember how many passengers died on the Lusitania, Jerry, our resident baby boomer/ history expert, delivered as though he had witnessed the event firsthand.
2. Cultural differences exist
Hours: 11am to 11:03am (Sunday)
What happened: I arrived in Dusseldorf for a week visiting a local plant. I was jet lagged and looking to enjoy a Pilsner at a local bar before taking a nap.
The only open establishment I found was a night club. Little did I know, “night club” has a completely different meaning in Germany.
Anyone passing may have seen me walk in and out like I was using a revolving door, with a blank expression on my face and a mind that was slightly more educated on what is considered normal in certain European establishments.
What I learned: German nightclubs are no place for a casual beer.
3. You should also follow passions outside of work
Hours: 5pm to 2am
What happened: I was visiting a site in New Jersey when I met a customer service representative who played drums on the side. At five o’clock one Wednesday, he drove me into New York City to watch him practice with his band and returned at two in the morning. As I struggled to stay awake the next morning, I learned this was something he did on a nightly basis. I joked that he was playing with an amateur rock band to support his passion of handling customer complaints.
What I learned: His outside passion in music only served to make him a more interesting and open-minded person at work, which is something that’s important for creativity and building better relationships with customers. He was able to take the skills he learned networking with fans and selling albums, and apply this to his career selling hoses by doing so in a way that’s a bit more unique in the corporate customer service world.
4. Business people are people too
Hours: 6pm to 12am
What happened: At one meeting in Houston, a group of us took over the AV equipment in an empty conference room and turned it into a makeshift karaoke bar. After an hour of ruining hit songs, many of the three-hundred meeting attendees had joined us. It wasn’t long before the business’s VP was joined on stage by his General Manager and two HR professionals for an energetic (albeit awful sounding) rendition of “All About That Bass”.
What I learned: Sometimes our ability to be goofy and vulnerable can get lost in a sea of buzzwords, stuffy attire, and cookie-cutter corporate conversation. Inside every great professional is a human being with hopes, dreams, families, friends, fears, and passions. Obviously we can’t always behave the same way at work as we do at home (I’d be sipping a whiskey on the rocks in a bathrobe), but I think sometimes we are too good at checking our real personalities at the door.
At the end of the day, forming both professional and personal relationships with colleagues has helped me better understand their strengths and given me more of a reason to help in times of need. I’ve also seen firsthand how following passions outside of a 9to5 job can make you a more of a well-rounded person with unique experiences and skills you can bring into the workplace. And taking time away from checking emails to explore a new surrounding can teach you a lot about a culture different from your own.
What do you think? Are the moments we have outside the office just as important for business?
Eric Licht, Marketing and Communications Manager