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Work Happens to Be Part of Life

Posted on the 29 July 2014 by Alanhargreaves @RechargeToday

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Is work-life balance such a good idea?

Work happens to be part of life
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.

Work happens to be part of life
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.

Work happens to be part of life
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.


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