Edition number 16; dateline 3 April 2009
Seeking a balance in the summer time
British Summer Time is here! I have been longing for that extra hour of lightness. Now is the time to come out of our burrows and start talking to our neighbours, walking the dog at both ends of the day, doing the garden and playing sport. And it would normally be the time that the all important Tub would be brought back to life but sadly it sprung a leak in its nether regions towards the back end of last year so now I have to resort to finding other physical and metaphysical ‘tubs’ from which I can form a view.
So with spring in my step – or is it ‘a spring’ in my step – I bound into 2009 at long last. And it’s only taken me three months. But before all of you athletics coaches get too excited, the only bounding I have actually done is into ‘National Nap at Work Week’. This means that not only can I enjoy all this extra daylight but I can take a siesta in the afternoon, slumped over my computer keyboard, before leaping into the evening's activities. Life is looking up.
However, all is not well because, although things are tickety boo with Mother Nature, things aren’t Sir Garnet elsewhere. The world’s economy is melting down and so is Antarctica; young people are causing trouble and old people are getting short-changed; the world is going to be devastated by a computer virus and politicians are spending my taxes on porn! So how does this relate to our world, the world of leisure? Well first of all, if ever you get a moment of ‘down time’ don’t be tempted to sit down with a cup of coffee to read a newspaper and, whatever you do, don’t watch the TV news because it will convince you there is no point in going on! All of which leaves me tubless and torn. Torn between advising you all to rela-a-a-x and exhorting you to work like a person possessed because if you don’t work yourself into the ground you may never work again!
On reflection what’s really needed is some balance; and for those of us working in leisure, this broadly means two things: providing some opportunities for others to get some balance and ensuring we also have some balance in our own lives
It is the second one I am going to concentrate on here, as I think I have talked about the first in previous ‘tubs’. I am a fine one to speak about having balance in my life, of course. Those of you that know me will be crying, “Demonstrate some balance in your own life, Tubster, and we might listen to you!” My response? It takes one to know one and I can legitimately claim expertise in getting balance into one’s life simply because I spectacularly fail in my own. I certainly know what to do and what not to do, even if I don’t follow my own advice.
People managers among you should be taking note because so many of us in this profession are usually here because it is our hobby. In any one week I may do fifty hours of paid work and another five to ten hours of voluntary work because I love it. Many of us (particularly in sport) are also ‘activists’ so we can’t just sit around doing nothing; we are doers and we have to be in the middle of things. This is praised as being an excellent quality but we need to be careful.
Before going any further, I have to declare that I am a natural activist. I dive in and have a go before thinking about things. I am certainly not a great theorist, although I can be driven to it when necessary. I certainly can’t bear people who don’t work at three hundred miles an hour. However, we have to understand that not every one is a carbon copy of us and that, actually, three hundred miles an hour isn’t the right way for everyone. Some times we have to let other people find their own balance, particularly in this profession.
Why are we different to other professions? Because our work is something we started off doing as a hobby. We have probably been doing this ‘job’ since we were children so distinguishing between work and non-work can be a challenge. Just to make things harder, other people don’t acknowledge we are not at work. Let me paint a picture: you have been at work all day, you finish your shift and you are looking forward to your session at the gym. You arrive and start your training but the toilets aren’t working in the women’s changing rooms. The facility is owned by your employer so you get dragged away from your training to ‘fix it’, even though you’re the financial officer during the day. Another one: you join Nether Whopping Sports Club because you want to play sport, remain fit and have a great social life but they get to know that you know the grant aid system so instead of playing sport you are dragged off to committee meetings and spend your evenings ‘finding funds’. You could say no but you don’t because you love sport/ arts/heritage/caravanning and you can’t bear to see your fellow participants suffering.
If you are the ‘boss’ you need to help your team understand how to differentiate between work and play. You need to talk to them about it and demonstrate a work/life balance. This doesn’t mean to say that evening and weekend work is unacceptable ( that’s life in leisure: we work when others play) but we should take time at other times to have a break. We should also provide a role model to others, so coaching/ teaching/ leading groups in your spare time is good (you’ll probably enjoy it) and keeping fit certainly is but we should learn when we are on ‘company time’ and when it is our own; and we certainly shouldn’t be made to feel bad if we can’t fit it all in. Let’s face it, there are certainly times in life when fitting work, family and our favourite leisure activities all in is virtually impossible. However, as the boss, we need to remember that the happier our workers are, the more productive they are. I can still remember being made to feel guilty by my boss about coming in after 9.30am one morning even though I had done three 9.30pm finishes on the bounce and had over one hundred hours in lieu time logged at the time.
We need to remember that most of us do this work because we love it but we also need to remember that unless we split the work from the pleasure, things will go sour and we’ll begin to crave that job at Tesco (other supermarkets are available). We can’t afford to lose people who really love what they do so let’s all find ways of helping each other keep a balance. Which brings me back to National Napping week and the question of how are we going to encourage people to take safe breaks and not be like Bob Monkhouse who reckoned: “I want to die like my father, quietly in his sleep – not screaming and terrified like his passengers.’’
Kay Adkins is an executive board member of a county sport partnership, chair of a CSN and a member of the interim board of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. Kay is also managing director of KAM Ltd, which offers a range of support services in the sport and leisure industry working in volunteer/workforce development and facility development.
Tales from a tub
the last word in contemplative comment on the leisure industry
Leisure professionals can easily get 'volunteered'