My Dog and 3 Surprising Lessons in Business

Life outside of work, funny how it can slip away from us. Maybe you don’t even realize that your rhythm outside of working hours has been overhauled by deadlines and quarterly goals. You find yourself carving unnecessary gaps into evenings and weekends to get ahead on a few tasks or to just hear your manager say, “this one’s a workhorse,” one more time. Sound familiar?

Loving your work life is critical, but can career obsession make you forget the other more important parts of life?

At the beginning of July I was fresh off a business trip, sitting with my dog. I had just finished unpacking and went to smooth down the fur around her chin and felt thick lumps nestled around her throat. I froze. Immediately I knew something was very wrong. Two hours and a vet visit later I was ready to start the weekend waiting on test results for canine lymphoma.

1. It’s not just OK to love something more than your work. It’s a must.

I adopted my dog while attending the U of A eleven years ago. Almost everything has changed since then: jobs, apartments, significant others, goals, but she has been one of the constants. My dog has been my anchor in many ways. So when I found out she had Cancer, something you can’t explain to your pet, it was heartbreaking.

Appointments for sometimes last-minute treatments became a weekly or bi-weekly interruption from working hours. My dog, family for me, became the priority. And being pulled a little further away from work I remembered life goes fast. It’s easy to take what and who we love for granted and forget that none of it lasts forever.

2. Good employers secretly want you to have a life outside of work.

I’m lucky. While maybe it’s just postponing the inevitable, I’ve been able to put my dog through treatment, keep her cheerful, comfortable and maintain her quality of life longer. And I’ve appreciated that time more.

Sometimes it’s impossible to take on a personal challenge without the support of your manager and company.

At many businesses, getting time away from the office or requesting occasional work-from-home days is virtually impossible -or- wrongly interpreted as a lack of commitment. A good employer realizes that the people supporting their business do have lives outside of work, and that life happens. Companies that give leeway, (within reason), show they are investing in employees and place a value on them off the books. It makes for higher morale and definitely makes most professionals more committed to the company.

It means a lot when a senior executive at your workplace says “family comes first,” and means your pet. My employer is a unicorn like that. And it’s made me that much more passionate about supporting the company, our clients, and contributing in every way possible.

I know when I have to duck out or work from home to make an appointment that I’m fortunate to work where I do. And my team knows I’ll be checking in via email outside of regular hours and putting in the time and care to ensure my job is done. It’s reciprocated.

3. It can’t be all business. People need to connect on a human level at work too.

As we advance in our careers, many of us try to bring less and less of our personal lives to work, (specifically with higher-ups), and keep our dialogue on the employers’ goals and what we’re doing for them. There’s definitely a fine line on topics that shouldn’t enter the workplace, but expressing your passion about other parts of your life helps along meaningful relationships with the people you spend 40+ hours with every week.

No one wants to work with a robot, and knowing what moves you in ‘real life’ keeps you three-dimensional. You’re more than just a moving part of the business. It also makes it easier for others to invest in you and open up themselves.

Friends in and outside of the office know I love my dog more than anything. That’s become a part of my personal brand, and it’s something I’m proud of.

At this point, the treatment measures are really just to limit the Cancer as much/long as possible and keep her feeling good, (it isn’t going into remission). It’s been an emotional and financial investment, and definitely all worth it.

The last few months have had their ups and downs, but a difficult situation can really make you appreciate your friends and family, and your company.

Have you had a similar experience? When did a tough time outside of the office make you build stronger alliances there and feel more a part of a business?

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