Work-Life Balance - the 3 legged stool
Work – Life Balance
The issue of Work-Life Balance is becoming greater than ever as companies are still struggling through downsizing and cost cutting waiting for the economy to turn around. Even in those companies that are lucky enough to be growing the issue of work-life balance is still heard through the hallways.
With the opportunity to see how life can be lived fully and workers can be extremely productive I am of the firm belief that living a life only for work does no one any good; the company, the shareholders, the community and the individual and their family. Like, healthcare and quality education it is time that society and companies, big and small realize employees can be productive and achieve results and also live a balanced healthy life.
So how is it done, you may ask. Following are three legs to the stool of creating a work-life balance environment. Like the 3 legs, it takes everyone, the organization, the leadership, and the individual to make it happen.
Part I: Family friendly policies, benefits, career ladders
Many organizations today have found that in order to hire and retain great people, the organization needs to put into place some baseline policies and benefits. These include such items as good benefits including family healthcare, policies that embrace the changes in people’s lives (i.e. birth of a child, young children at home, school age children, aging parents), flexible schedules, part time work, work from home options, and the desire to move up the ladder but not always as a manager.
These benefits and policies are the first step in hiring, retaining, and promoting great people that can be productive because the environment supports needs they might have at different times in their lives.
Part II: Manager/ Team culture and implicit behaviors
Managers and therefore the teams they lead have their own cultures which may or may not support work/life balance. Take for instance a manager who is at work at 7 am and stays until 7 pm. Even if s/he does not say a word, the manager’s behavior sends a message to the team, long hours is important. If however, the manager takes off on Wed at 4pm to coach their child’s soccer team, the message changes slightly. That is until the employees begin to see waves of emails sent that night from 9-11pm. Every behavior by each individual is observed and becomes the norm for what is expected and what will be tolerated, whether implicit or explicit.
What is critical is that managers and teams discuss the work/life balance culture. What are the norms? What is permissible and what is seem as excessive? How are they measured, by hours, productivity, or client results? Is office time always necessary or are can everyone benefit from some days when professionals work at home?
The key is to make all Work/life balance behaviors visible and explicit.
Part III: Individual
The individual must also take responsibility for designing the type of work/life balance they need at each specific stage in their life. This requires an understanding of their goals and how they want to both develop professionally and personally and how the lifestyle that will create work/life balance that is healthy and productive.
The activities and time spent in other aspects of each employee’s life is found to be equally beneficial back in the workplace. Research has shown that relationship and team skills practiced outside the workplace are similar within the work environment and vice-a versa. Integrating dual work/life learning enhances the individual as a family member, a community citizen, and a high performing employee.
Creating Work/Life Balance Cultures, Teams, and Individuals
Balancing the 3 legged stool is key to hiring, retaining, and developing a high performing workforce. It is not just the organization’s responsibility, or the managers, or the individuals, but it takes all three.
Contact me and tell me what you are thinking about work-life balance.