A couple of weeks ago, I was pushing through my to-do list at work when one of my colleagues passed by my room on his way out and said
“It’s the third time this week that I see you arrive early and leave late. Are you going home soon?”
“I am” I replied “. I just want to finish this thing before I leave.”
“Work will always be there” he said with a smile, and waved goodbye.
He was right. I felt that this conversation was charged with mutual understanding. We both live in a town about 40 minutes away by train. He knows the commute and the discipline necessary to make anything out of the week other than work. At the office, there are at least three more people in similar situations. And they notice. They ask if you are getting enough rest, enough spare time, they share tips on how to save time during long work days, and most importantly, they are the ones asking “Aren’t you going home on time today?”.
They ask so often and are so observant that it has started to spread. Colleagues ask from the heart how you are doing when you run into each other by the coffee machine. And even if we spend 90% of that conversation talking about work, people still ask “But other than that, how are you doing?”.
These acts of kindness make all the difference on a day when you manage to get nothing done, or when your plans crumble as soon as the day starts. When you are beating yourself up for not delivering the perfect presentation and having a backlog on your to-do list that spans several pages in the notebook. How are you doing? Have you taken a break? Are you going home soon? Start to sound to me like Don’t let it get the best of you. Take care of yourself. Rest.
My early experience in the 9-5 taught me that showing kindness was a sign of weakness. Showing too much kindness almost led to professional suicide. But I believe that kindness is an act of courage, and there is nothing small about it.