When Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook said, “There is no such thing as work-life balance. There is work, there is life, and there is no balance,” workforces all over the world chimed in agreement. Especially the millennials. Clearly, the standard definition of dedicating equal amounts of time and attention to work and life outside work, wasn’t serving anyone. It was too simplistic to address the complexities of life today, where boundaries between personal and professional are blurred.
Organizational behaviorists took note of this trend and launched into recreating the concept of work-life balance. Two key takeaways emerged from this exploration.
- Rephrasing the term ‘work-life balance’. Whether it is because this term has been around for too long, or because it inherently implies putting work and life on equal pedestals, it no longer has any impact on people. Rather, moving over to a practice of work-life effectiveness, is more helpful. This approach calls for intentional effort at integrating life with work, and not seeing them as separate entities, because they do seep into each other. Researcher Jeffrey Greenhaus recommends that work and personal life should be allies. Participation in multiple roles, such as parent, partner, friend, and employee, can actually enhance physical and psychological well-being — especially when all of the roles are high quality and managed together.
The key here is to understand when to prioritize what, and how to ask for support. Companies like Google have adopted this integrated approach into their HR policies, where they offer incentives like childcare facilities at work, taking an hour off right in the middle of the work day to run errands, etc. Another way to do this was noted by Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines. He admits to getting some ideas for his work, from his children, by sharing challenges with them!
- Knowing what this effectiveness means to you. Career and other aspects of our lives clash many a times because we aren’t able to meet the demands that all our roles place on us. There is also a sense of time running out, as we may have a rigid perception of how our work and life need to be. A great way to address this friction, is to define what success and effectiveness in all our roles would look like. The experience of success is a very personal one. Each week, take a close look at different areas of your life, and decide what you need to do to feel effective, capable and energized in all of them. Be realistic with this weekly definition, because we are going to ask you to make it a non-negotiable. This weekly ritual will help you in doing everything in your power to address your needs and the needs of those around you. And why every week? Because all our roles are ever evolving!We’d also like to add a special note here for leaders who manage teams. As much as the practice of work-life effectiveness is a personal one, in organizations it trickles down. There is a dire need for people in management roles to revisit their expectations of their employees to be available after work hours. If top management regularly logs 60-80 hour workweeks, the expectation is that other employees will do the same. According to a Work Place Trends survey, 65% employees report tending to this expectation.
Today, with many practices, no one solution fits all. It all depends on how people adopt them, and research findings can only go as far as offering suggestions. With respect to work-life effectiveness, it is important to be taking care of your body and your mindset, carving out time to be with your family, doing things that recharge you — all these make you more productive in the end. Not just work.