Usually when someone complains or talks about their work-life balance (or lack of), it usually revolves around not having enough hours in a day to manage everything. As our family and private lives seem to grow more and more packed with To Do lists, the relentless blips of new e-mails, new Tweets, phone calls, our work-days are also becoming more and more hectic, and it is difficult to prioritize.
As the economy and the labour market is changing, most of the work we do is basically with our brains. For the managers of our time this is a challenge, manage the brains of a bunch of people at work. This work is almost invisible, an unless you cc your boss into every e-mail, how can he know what you are doing in your head during the day? You may be thinking about your next job opportunity, or fretting over a sick child, or how to pay the bill for the care-home of your parents. And we are all so different, some of us may be up and perky early, for others our brains only really switch to the 4th gear in the afternoon. Just yesterday I was sitting over a report, without any inspiration. I went out to get my lunch, and during that brief walk, ideas just flooded my head, and as I returned, I quickly put them to paper. But will your boss understand if you ask him/her for a long walk to get a power-point presentation done?
Work-life balance, says Nigel Marsh, is too important to be left in the hands of your employer. Marsh lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity – and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen, during his Ted X talk in Sidney.
There still seems to be a lingering taboo around talking about your struggle to balance your work and family/private life with your superiors, or about what will enhance your productivity. (Unless you work at Google, and playing on a Play-station, getting a massage or going for a run is a totally accepted part of your working day). In such a volatile employment climate the last thing we want is to jeopardize our jobs for a little bit more comfort. But employers are starting to understand, that in this brain driven labour market, unless you have cleared your mind as much as possible of worry, you cannot concentrate and you are less productive.
“All things being equal, we will work harder and more effectively for people we like. And we like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel.”
That’s a quote cited by James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book Encouraging the Heart (Jossey- Bass, 1999). What’s being talked about is emotional, caring leadership. If you want your team to care about its work, you have to care about your team. And caring about your staff means helping them improve their work-life balance and thus their quality of life.
And with this last line, over and out, as today I have actually taken a day off! 😉
Agnes Uhereczky, COFACE Director