Sergey Surovikin

Russian officers struggle with work-life balance

The chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, has ordered a series of initiatives to protect soldiers from exhaustive work hours. An unhealthy work culture has developed in the Russian military that makes it hard for soldiers to balance family lives with the demands of the service. That reports Kommersant.

Apparently, it has become a standard practice many places to break the official regulations about work hours. So Gerasimov has ordered his generals to change their practices about planning of working time for subordinates. From now on, it is not permitted to conduct meetings during night hours, at weekends, or during official holidays. Also, generals must end the regime that says that subordinates are expected to stay at work until the leader goes home. In general there has to be a compelling necessity if soldiers stay at the workplace after business hours.

Gerasimov’s letter has gone out to commanders of military services, districts, and regiments. It demands that the use of overtime be limited to the lowest possible number of persons, and that it will be compensated with an equivalent period of free time. The commanders must control the adherence to official working hour regulations in their units, do statistics on employee vacations, and conduct surveys among the staffs. They have to report back to the General Staff before October 10. There will also be organized a controlling function in the General Staff.

Problem is poor management and too many meetings

A large part of the problem seems to be poor management practices. A survey by the General Staff has shown that a bad meeting culture has developed in many places. Especially the use of video conferences has contributed to abusive practices. It is not uncommon that commanders have two to three daily meetings with their superior and spend excessive amounts of time in front of a web camera. Often a commander’s workday starts with a meeting with his superior, and he doesn’t get around to his own staff before the second half of the day, at which point the meeting process often repeats itself at a lower level.

Another problem is the habit of delegating tasks with a very tight deadline. Indicators such as “ASAP”, “By tomorrow morning”, or “For Monday” lead to breaches of the regulations where people work at night, weekends, or during holidays.

Sergey Surovikin
Colonel general Sergey Surovikin is one of the culprits. Now he must reduce the workload among subordinates in the Aerospace Forces. Photo:

All this leads to tiredness and reduced preparedness for work. It also increases the social pressure on the soldiers and decreases their satisfaction with their life situation. Gerasimov notes that a hard work schedule can even lead to breakups of families.1 In combination with Russia’s challenges to provide good housing for military families in some regions, the hard work schedule remains a decisive factor for the motivation of soldiers to continue their military service.

The survey has shown the worst problems in the Southern and Central military districts and in the central command of the Aerospace Forces. The Aerospace Forces are under command of (army) colonel general Sergey Surovikin, who is known for a tough attitude toward his staff. Back in 2004, he famously scolded a subordinate colonel so harshly that he impulsively committed suicide with a handgun in front of the entire staff.

  1. I think military families everywhere can confess that divorce is an occupational hazard. 




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