Conversing with Co-Workers about Life Outside the 9-5

Today's blog post is written by Ryan Bridges. He holds a Bachelors in Finance and a Minor in International Business from Michigan State University. He has worked as a Financial Analyst for both Whirlpool Corporation (Southwest MI) and Discover Financial Services (Greater Chicago area). 

As sure as the sun will rise each morning, so is the greeting of your alarm sounding each weekday. Executing your morning routine at the beginning of each week can be daunting – exercising, eating breakfast, commuting to work, mentally preparing for what meetings you have that week…it can become so monotonous that you forget to prepare for the inevitable question you will hear multiple times every Monday: 

    “How was your weekend? Do anything fun?”

To emphasize a point, here is a response I got from someone a few weeks back. Lucky for me, I got a play by play of the thought process.

Hmm okay, thinking back to when I left work on Friday. Oh right, I took a nap for 2 hours. What did I do Friday night? Oh yeah, I drank way too much at a bar with friends and tried to get a cute guy’s attention. Okay Saturday…let’s see. I slept in, ate leftover pizza from the night before, took a 3-hour nap, worked out, went out to dinner with friends, then decided to go out again and drank too much. Came home early and binge-watched the Kardashians. Yikes, I’m starting to sound like a waste of space. Sunday…I slept in once again, ate an ungodly amount of food for brunch, took a much-needed walk, took a nap, and then began to prepare for the week.

What this person said above should never be considered a sufficient answer to the question “What did you do this weekend?” Luckily, I’ve also had just enough awkward encounters myself to know that this can be a problem, and I have a few ways that I choose to prepare for it:

  1. Mind Your 3’s and 2’s: before I walk in every Monday morning, I think of three things to say that I did that weekend, and two (relatively generic) questions that I can ask people. The three things I did should be simple, include details, and easy to communicate.
    1. Do: “I tried a new restaurant on Saturday, the name was XYZ. Have you been there?
    2. Don’t: “Saturday? Sat around trying to figure out what to do all afternoon with my friend. We decided to go out to eat.”
  2. Delivery is everything. Here is how I typically re-route my words:
    1. Drank too much -> met up with some friends for drinks
    2. Slept all day -> Relaxed and got some rest
    3. Attempted to walk off my food baby after brunch -> spent some time outside
  3. Go do something! I know that it can be so easy to want to rest all weekend when you worked a long week – believe me, if there was an award for napping, I would take the gold. Hopefully you have the internal motivation to try new things that interest you, but if you need the extra kick, think of how saying “I don’t know, didn’t do much this weekend” every single Monday morning will affect your self-image. And don’t kid yourself, your reputation and image are critically important. 
  4. If you really didn’t do anything, there is nothing wrong with saying “I had a relaxing weekend and took time to rest. It was great.”

Now that you know some of my secrets in preparing for Monday mornings, I want to address a question that I’m sure some people reading this are asking:

Why does this matter? It is no one’s business what I do on my time outside of the office.

You’re right. It is not another person’s business what you choose to do on your weekends or after you leave the office every day. To be honest, some of the things that people choose to share when I ask them about their weekend make me not want to ask again. However, I’ll offer my own perspective on why I think this matters. 

When you are in the first few years of your professional career, you will heavily rely on other people to teach, mentor, and help you. From my experience, you will not rally others to do these things by simply executing your job well or “talking the talk.” Instead, establishing yourself as a relatable human being (someone who is always learning and trying new things) will help you to fare better.

You work with people - people who bring so much more to each day than their ability to do their job.

You will spend your career trying to communicate messages to others, and the better you are at making it concise and relatable, the more valuable you will prove yourself to be. Why not take each opportunity to deliver a concise and relatable message when you can?