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« Why simple is better | Main | The Mindfulness Thing »
Tuesday
Jul292014

Work happens to be part of life

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Is work-life balance a balanced concept?

It has a nice ring to it, like it’s a state of calm. In the office, we’d competently manage stressful issues. At home, the family room would overflow with fulfillment.

Yet the conversation is never balanced. The focus is always on time, mainly a demand for more of the free variety. Work is the enemy, somehow divorced from life rather than an integral part of it.

Other judgments intervene. Women feel guilty of being absentee parents. Men feel they should be more than just providers. The conversation gets hijacked by working mother arguments.

Reframing the problem.

Balance is not a gender issue. Nor is it simply a matter of more ‘family time’. Sometimes you just need a quiet period on your own. And who put the word ‘work’ in there. Why isn’t it simply called ‘life balance’?

This is really about enjoying the full spectrum of your being, not hating one bit and loving another. Balance is more a state of mind than dividing your life into time zones, or war zones as the conversation would sometimes have it.

It’s not constant either. Life doesn’t go from A to B in a straight line. Even if you divide your time into three simple areas like work, family and community, there will be times when one needs more attention than another.

What can we do about it?

For the individual, instead of rationing time, focus instead on what we want to achieve in different roles. That was the core of the late Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits.

You have various roles: employee, manager, parent, teammate or hobbyist. Whatever they are, what do you want to achieve in each? That takes the focus off the clock and puts it on fulfillment.

Yes, it may mean spending more time with the children, but doing what?

Equally, when you are at the office, are you focused on what you want to achieve at work, or are you just staying busy?

Clarity about roles and goals reduces stress. You take responsibility for the quality of your life rather than allot quantities of time according to a formula.

Making work more attractive.

Workplace research shows people make their best contribution when they are actively involved in decisions about their role. If you are wondering how to make their work more appealing, try asking them.

Get people to design their own job specification. Ask how they could make their best contribution to a particular task. This is not anarchy. It’s engagement.

By all means examine flexi-time and subsidized gym memberships, but getting your people aligned leads to buy-in. Collaborative effort aimed at a common objective makes going to work more appealing. Being there is less stressful as a result.

The corollary is this. If work goes OK, people go home less exhausted. They’ll be more emotionally available when they get there.

Work, like home, is part of the ecology of life. The two are like spokes in a wheel. When each gets the right attention the wheel is less likely to wobble. That’s a state commonly known as balance.

 

Reader Comments (4)

Right on. Most of the people I know who want more free time do nothing with it when they get it.

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRene Foggiato

What you say is right, but it needs both parties. i.e. employers and employees to have the same attitude. I'd like to restructure my job burt my firm is not even prepared to discuss it. So what do I do then?

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuresh M

Agree with the principle involved here but working mothers need husbands and partners who put this into practice at home. Both of them are raising children, not just one of them. My problem is not work, which I love. More often its finding ways to reframe the home part of it.

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Macleod

Hey Suresh. Try quitting.

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVanillaCafe

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