This is a subject most companies and individuals struggle to define, measure or even impact. Why is it hard? Because, while the definition might be clear – i.e. an appropriate balance between work and life, the interpretation can vary significantly.
Consider a newly promoted manager. They are eager to learn and eager to make an impact. They have a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm and often come in early or stay late. Do they have a good work-life balance? Or, how about the CEO who is basically on call 24/7, and has heavy travel and meeting schedule as well. Do they have a good work-life balance? The answer will depend on the individual. I know people in these situations who say they enjoy themselves the way it is and others who obviously would rather change it. What’s the difference then? How we choose to spend the time we have.
Stephen R. Covey’s 7th habit is about sharpening the saw – “renewing the four dimensions of our nature”. These four dimensions are Mental (reading, writing, visualising, planning); Physical (exercise, nutrition, stress management); Social/emotional (Service, empathy, Synergy, intrinsic security); Spiritual (Value clarification & commitment, study & meditation). It’s about looking after our selves and creating balance in our lives.
So how do we sharpen our saw or improve our work-life balance? We make choices! We have to be proactive – set goals and schedule time for things in each of the four dimensions. No one else will do this for us! Sounds simple right? So why don’t more of us do it? A fear or perception that our boss, for example, might think we aren’t working hard enough? We lack the skills and knowledge to do it?
Is it always this seemingly black and white? What about the situation where there really is too much work or your boss demands more than can be realistically expected of anyone.
As a leader there are some things you can put in place that support and even promote a good work-life balance for employees.
– Work Planning systems for distributing workload
– Role scoping and review
– Time management systems from goals through to daily priority planning
– Feedback systems for managers and employees to review the causes and take action
– Wellness programs
– Dependent Care programs
– Expectation setting to make it clear that employees are not expected to work excessive hours on a regular basis
– Flexible work practices
How well these systems work will depend on how well they are set up and implemented, and how committed leadership is to it (walking the talk). It will also depend on employees willingness to make choices – learn and work with the systems, ask for help, push back when needed, believe it’s possible and to accept the role and responsibility they have in creating a work-life balance they can be happy with.
“Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things…I am tempted to think…there are no little things,” ~ Bruce Barton