The battle to attain work life balance is a continual struggle for many people. It can come down to how you define and judge having balance. We all know people who spend time at work that is above and beyond what is required or expected and are thriving on the challenge and growth it brings and thus feels that they have balance. Where as another person who doesn't enjoy their job and occasionally has to put some extra overtime in feels that they don't have the balance that they are seeking. Does work compete with hobbies, interests, family time that is more important to the individual! is the job uninteresting with no prospects, does the leadership at work not inspire you, these factors and other have a bearing on how someone perceives their work/life balance.
The below article by Tony Bidwell discusses how good leadership can influence these challenges and how an employee can take control of their balance:
Over the years, work-life balance has become one of several data points in measuring employee engagement. Leadership teams that understand that they are in the people business truly know the impact that a workforce with a healthy work-life balance can have on the bottom line, and now, more than ever, are looking for ways to crack the code on improving their people's work-life balance.
The Myth of Work-Life Balance
The myth surrounding work-life balance is...that there can be balance. When many of us think of balance, we envision a balance scale with two pans suspended from a beam perfectly centered on a single pillar.
The operation of the scale is simple: weight applied to one side creates change on the opposite side. Balance is achieved when both sides of the scale have the same weight in the pan.
When we communicate work-life balance, what we are saying, intentionally or not, is balance only occurs when both sides (work and life) have equal parts. There has been unlimited frustration and disappointment attempting to equally distribute time between work and life.
Additionally, leaders change the balance game as they ascend the ranks within the organization. The experiences created by top leadership regarding balance are distressing, especially for upcoming leaders, who experience top leaders fully consumed with their careers.
I once heard a CEO proclaim, "The expectation at this level is 24/7/365, and anything less is unacceptable." We have been placed in a position to choose one or the other.
The Death of Work-Life Balance
We need to kill the unattainable search of equal parts work and life. In its place, we need to begin a conversation more in touch with true life. Gallup's research on well-being, I believe, is the first key to the answer.
In Gallup's data they reveal five areas in our life, which make up our overall well-being. The areas of well-being are purpose, social, physical, financial, and community. According to Gallup, we can be thriving, struggling, or suffering in any or all of these areas in life.
Further studies show that a low work-life balance score can be offset by a purpose-driven, visionary leader. When our focus is on the bigger picture of life, which includes purpose, our overall well-being will flourish.
In place of work-life balance, we should consider balancing LIFE as defined in an Overall Well-Being Index.
The Well-Being Framework
Others, in addition to Gallup, have studied and concluded our overall well-being is key to a more dynamic life. The classifications might differ slightly, but the premise is still the same: there is more to life than work.
As leaders, it's imperative that we guide our people with this thinking in mind, not only will your people be grateful, but it will be seen in the results your company achieves. For me, a simple well-being framework is helpful in starting and finishing the well-being journey and you can apply these with those you lead.
Consider these three points:
1. Make a Personal Choice - In all areas of life, we will face challenges. Many of these challenges can place us on a path to become a victim. To maintain a sustainable, thriving well-being, we must make a daily personal choice to be accountable for our circumstances. Focusing on what we can control versus what we cannot control is the first place to begin. You can be a victim or a victor; the choice is ours. A personal choice provides a path to overcome our challenges.
2. Set Clear Results - Clarity is a key component to a thriving life of well-being. Where clarity is lacking, confusion sets in, which becomes a life-draining experience. You should have clear results (what you desire to achieve) in each major area of your life. Consider these four words when setting your results.
- Defined/Understood - when setting any type of goal or result, you must simply define what is important, AND you must understand how you and others impact it on a daily basis.
- Measured/Tracked - how do you know you are making progress? You cannot effectively move what you don't measure and track. Clear results provide affirmation for progress made and progress needed.
3. Establish Firm Boundaries - Boundaries are an important protection component in life. Without boundaries, you open yourself up for endless attacks on your time, talents, and resources. The absence of boundaries will negatively impact your mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual areas of life.
Once you establish boundaries, communicate them clearly to those in your sphere of influence. Firm boundaries provide protection against outside forces seeking to drain your effectiveness.
It's time to end the frustration of trying to balance work and life, for ourselves and those we lead. Far greater than the old definition of balance is a life thriving in multiple areas of well-being with a personal choice, clear results, and firm boundaries as your framework--the results of this will pay dividends both personally and professionally.