Balance: 1) To bring into or keep in equilibrium; 2) To establish equal or appropriate proportions of elements; 3) To equal or neutralize the weight or importance of.
Treat life as a pie. Composed of “slices” (career, relationships, health, personal growth, finances, fun), many treat work as the single largest piece of their lives. Yet, it is one slice of the total pie. When we allow work to consume us, the remaining sectors are forced to compete for the meager leftovers. Do not allow work to literally and figuratively gobble you up.
Circumvent the trap of viewing busyness as a status symbol. For, we are not talking about being positively busy, deriving fulfillment from dedicating yourself to what you consider most important. We are talking about being driven by and complaining about hectic daily routines, putting off essential priorities until they can be squeezed months later into booked up calendars – leaving more room for work!
Focus on what is really important. Many are now realizing corner offices and large salaries are not worth failed relationships, declining health and soul sickness. Work anxiety can poison our entire body’s systems, destroying the very vehicle we need to carry out our work in the world. Left unchecked, we succumb to what the Japanese call karoshi, or death from overwork.
Recognize that people bring their whole selves to work. Compassionate leaders realize people cannot be split into fragmented parts – as if a business self comes to work while the remaining self gets shelved. They strive to accommodate employees’ lives so as to minimize conflicts between work and home; helping employees attend to personal matters creates a focus on work while at work.
Invest in employees’ welfare for ultimate gain. At a time when many employers are concerned about skyrocketing health-care costs, proactive workplaces find it fiscally prudent to reduce this bottom-line drain. Eventually, the demand to minister to balance will become a non-negotiable business decision to address employee protests against inhumane workplaces (not just a reactive step).
View work-life balance as a “way of being” one lives. Work-life balance is not a “program” one “does”. Otherwise, it risks becoming a “phantom” program-of-the-month. It needs to be a core value, tracked and measured as a key performance indicator, as opposed to being motivated by a business desire to look good or by the ulterior motive of creating healthier employees able to take on more work.
Exemplify balance as a core value through your own behaviour. Soul-inspiring leaders point out unhealthy behaviours like excessive overtime and failing to use one’s full vacation. And, they welcome similar feedback. Whereas in unbalanced organizations, employees who consistently put in twelve-hour days are lauded as heroes, in people-friendly workplaces they are targeted for “work smarter, not harder” campaigns!
Avoid “face time” as a measure of productivity. Merely being in one’s char each day is unheard-of in leading-edge environments. Only an untrusting leader would cling to the need to watch employees at all times to ensure work is getting done. However, if number of hours spent at work is your sole measure of shareholder value, you have a broader systemic issue than simply work-life balance.
Questions For Reflection
How much of your sense of self is tied up with doing and achieving at work?
Would your friends and family say you spend enough time with them? Why or why not?
What messages does your behaviour communicate to people about the degree to which you value work-life balance?