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Work–life balance is now a cliché

Dave’s Note:  Our special guest author this week is Kelly Graham from Decision Toolbox, Inc.  You’ll enjoy her take on one of the basic issues of our business-personal lives…

By Kelly Graham

Finding work–life balance is one of the most abused clichés in business today. Why? Because there is no such thing as work–life balance in corporate America today. Conventional corporate structures don’t allow for balance, just the illusion of working towards it.

Work–Life Balance is dead

Look at the structure of conventional corporate America. Employees must wake up in time Work-Life-Balance 3dto get whatever household chores need to be done before heading off on their commute to the office. Depending on where that employee lives, the commute could take anywhere from minutes to a couple hours.

Everyone is rushing to make it to the office by the set start time, when everyone is expected to be at their desks to comply with the “butt in chair” office policy. Work, work, work until lunchtime, when the lucky employees are allowed to take a lunch break, though in many environments, it’s an unspoken rule that truly dedicated team members eat at their desks while continuing to work. Work some more, until the designated “quitting time,” which again, may be influenced by the unspoken rule that only slackers leave right at 5 pm. The dedicated team members stay long past that. Again with the commute home, just in time to figure out dinner, get the kids settled in for the night, have an hour to do whatever needs doing, then it’s lights out and start the whole process again tomorrow. Where is the balance?

It’s Not About Logistics

[Email readers, continue here…]  Some might argue that because Kim’s company is a 100% virtual company, where all team members work from home offices, it’s all too easy for us to be simplistic about the concept of work–life balance. While it’s true that working from home allows us to throw in a load of laundry while on a conference call, or squeeze in a workout on our lunch break, the truth is that working from home requires discipline. When the office is ten steps away at all times, we can, and do, end up working at all hours. The difference is…it’s our choice to work when it works for us, not when the clock tells us we’re supposed to be working.

Being virtual is a logistics benefit for sure, but more importantly, work–life balance is also a cultural mindset. We are not just able, but encouraged, to take ownership of our jobs. As long as the work is getting done, nobody should be looking over your shoulder to see when you’re doing it.

Why it Matters

If you’re looking for a way to turn your clock punchers into highly engaged employees, take a look at your culture. Does it really encourage work–life balance? Or is it lip service? Employees are highly engaged when their personal and professional values complement and support one another.

This is especially important for Gen Y, who value flexibility in their lives. We should take a lesson from them. They watched their parents struggle on the teeter–totter and learned that it doesn’t work. Instead, they expect a holistic approach to work and life. This includes work schedules, telecommuting, home–office arrangements, and dress code.

“A” leaders won’t get “A” players just by offering the highest pay, the shortest commute or the coolest water cooler. Instead, they’ll attract them by allowing employees the space to incorporate their personal and professional lives into one cohesive, meaning–driven life.

  • I find that in the real estate industry, work-life balance is one of the biggest issues that agents struggle with. Many times there will be an unbalance for weeks and months until something has to give and their family creates a stir. Then we see the pendulum swing and the balance becomes unbalanced again as the agent will cut out work time and choose to spend more time with family, as you know an agent usually has flexible work hours, unlike many corporate jobs.

    Culturally , America really is more and more demanding of the worker to always be “on call” and may be contacted at any moment via mobile or by text. Smart workers find ways to force a disconnect, whether by owning 2 phones, or perhaps using an app that silences work email notifications, these can help their sanity, when work tries to creep into the home life .

    Thanks Kelly.

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