Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thoughts on integrating the work-life balance

A recent survey of CEOs claim the #1 issue on their worry list for 2008 wasn’t the environment, or keeping their job. Nor was it fretting about the consumer or the customer. The big issue for 2008 is creating a sustainable work-life balance for them and their people.

To paraphrase Edward De Bono, “There’s no point being brilliant at the wrong thing”. To me, the whole issue of worrying about work-life balance is facing the wrong way. For a start, it implies compromise. As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t about balancing two objectives, it’s about working with each of them to passionately enjoy both. The trick is to be great at work and great at home. It’s about work-life integration and bringing passion and harmony to both. That way there’s no question of balance, no compromise, just sheer joy and fulfillment. Ok, it’s a tough ask, and that’s why my company, Inspiros, is working hard on coming up with ideas to help in this area.

The Harvard Business Review had a crack at this issue and recently published an article suggesting that understanding how marriages work can be important to the study of management.

I don’t think so.

I’ve got to tell you that our work-life integration studies recognize fundamental differences in the two environments. The idea that people with good marriages also have good relationships and success at work is unproven - to say the least! I know, and I’m sure you do too, hundreds of examples where this is simply not true. I would say most of us are significantly different people at home to what we are at work, which I think is the right approach. It’s how you adapt to each situation that makes for holistic fulfillment. At work it’s about cooperation and collaboration driving the great result. At home it’s about love and life, compromise and passion, dedicated to driving long term commitment not short-term results.

I read somewhere that there are four things that derail marriages. Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling and Contempt. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Personally I don’t buy into this. The first three Horsemen are pretty frequent visitors to most marriages and rarely have any kind of critical effect. They are also prevalent in most work places, particularly those of Anglo-Saxon extraction. The fourth Horsemen, Contempt, is a true wrecker. Once that sets foot in the house it’s all over, red rover.

In my experience, combining success in work and success at home is more difficult to achieve than you might think. It calls for new approaches to work. Many successful people at work are in trouble at home because of their naturally competitive spirit, their need to win, ego, and the amount of time they have to put in at the office to climb through the ranks. None of these really help at home and have to be checked at the door.

One area where the two do come together is recruitment. Finding the right talent, the right fit for the right job and the right culture are vital to success at work. The same applies to marriage. Finding someone compatible to you and your personality at the outset is by far the most important step for success.

So, whatever your personal bias, as 2008 starts, let’s all find ways to find fulfillment and joy at work, at home and in the community.

Go to it!


Susan Plunkett said...

I didn't have time to read in detail today however, from what I did take in, it sounds to me like one could look at the qualities that enable certain people to move between different roles and habitats 'well'. But also, traits and qualities that enable people to often keep a part of their 'person' in the other field. I've noticed that some people seem to be able to suspend part of an immediate reality and this helps them to say jump out of the home or family habitat in order to cope with a business crisis or issue and then settle back into home when 'done' without huge ripples being created.
Others get so frantic and concerned they are partially ineffectual in a circumstance that asks two things of them. Studies around this would be interesting.

May I say that recruitment interests me very much but gosh it is a clone like profession and very very few recruiters really know how to challenge and engage the corporation they are working to assist. Maybe I just find some of their approaches a little stale. I was looking into the creative side of recruiting before Christmas and really enjoyed what I found being done in some 'niche' companies.

Tony said...

Work/ life balance? What a joke. So do I put my life on hold while I "work"?

My work is an important and passionate part of my life.

Speaking of passion, (although I'm no expert in marriage - 22 years) my lesson is when I fell in love with my wife it was emotional. Now love is also a verb - what I say & do.

Susan Plunkett said...

Kevin, would you agree with the premise that the people who can move between the habitats (as I have called them) hold similar values in each - and that any difference lies in the manifestation of those values.

Ace Concierge said...

Work life integration OR balance is key to success and productivity in both our personal and professional lives. We are on call 24/7, always on the go, with something to be done for someone, whether an employer, oneself, or family. It is not an easy task to effectively manage and multi-task our entire To Do lists.

In my industry, our premise is to assist with efficiency, time management, stress reduction, and simplification of lives, by helping others, both individual consumers, and the business professionals, with their To Do lists and administrative responsibilities. These services enable the customer to have more time in their day to focus on what is important, rather than on what needs to be done. By outsourcing and delegating, so much more is gained towards effective balance or integration with life and work.

More and more corporations are becoming cognizant that they too must offer work life benefits to assist the time-starved and stressed employee, if they want to attract and retain quality personnel.

Are we here to live to work or work to live?

Ace Concierge, LLC
Enhancing YOUR life, one task at a time.

Nick Robinson said...

I agree with Kevin Roberts that part of the trick is to be good at both work AND life. Quite often, people unconsciously decide that they're not good at one or the other of these. So, if they unconsciously feel that they're not a good father or not a good mother, they might compensate by putting most of their energies into work; and conversely, if they've unconsciously decided that they're never going to be "successful" at work, they compensate by focussing on homelife. When clients come to me and ask for help with their work-life balance, I'll usually start by exploring their hidden beliefs about their abilities to be good at work and/or to be good at "life".
Once the hidden beliefs are uncovered then we can get to grips with how they can be successful in both.
And once that's done, it then becomes a matter of being very conscious about the choices one makes. For example, if I choose to take on a new contract, how will that impact the rest of my life - and, overall, will I have less or more of what I REALLY want? Or, if I choose to take time out to look after my son a couple of days a week, what impact will that have on my business and, overall, is that giving me more or less of the life I really want?

I also want to have a moan about government legislating for work-life balance, as if there was some secret formula about the number of hours we work which will magically make people good at "life"!

And lastly, we should remember that work can be very exciting. The right work gives us meaning and the chance to fully utilise our talents and abilities. So long as we learn to ALSO find meaning and excitement and 'stretch' in the rest of our lives (and not to beat ourselves up when we get it wrong!), that's my idea of work-life balance.

Nick Robinson
Executive Life Coaching for smart, motivated people

Jann Freed said...

I appreciated your comments on work-life balance and the comments of your blog readers. Thanks. Jann