Is Work-Life Balance Dead?
Sometimes it can seem like the stress of trying to achieve work-life balance is hardly worth the effort. Who has time for work-life balance? Not to mention it inherently implies a compromise, and like most compromises (a radio station everyone can agree on in the car, your kid eating at least one vegetable) it rarely ends in optimal results.
In her book, Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work, Dr. Tracy Brower of Limeade discusses the merits of trying to achieve work-life integration instead. According to Dr. Brower, “We can have it all.” Dubious? It’s not as pie-in-thesky as it sounds.
What she is really proposing is integrating work and life through such work-life supports as amenities, flexible hours, wellness and mental health supports and sabbaticals. By providing a pleasant working environment, technology that enables flexibility and job management that encourages an alignment of work and passion, organizations can genuinely improve the lives of their employees. And yes, on a tough work day when you’re bogged down in bureaucratic nonsense, it can be hard to imagine that your organization cares much about how great your life is, but work-life supports don’t just benefit individuals.
Organizations that implement such measures can expect to see a marked rise in engagement and loyalty, which has a well-documented connection to increased profitability. You might be thinking: “Yeah, I understand all that, but try telling that to my boss. Ping pong breaks and freewheeling work hours are all well and fine for Silicon Valley, but my organization would never go for that.” Thankfully, Dr. Bower has some tips for getting a reluctant leader on board.
First and foremost, you need to be able to prove that the benefits will outweigh the costs. If your leadership is resistant, or your organization conservative, it’s best to start small. For example, create a pool of volunteers who can fill in during emergencies, or assign someone to fill in for employees during vacation so they don’t have to do extra work (this also has the added benefit of providing the replacement with valuable experience).
Remember there’s strength in numbers, so approach your management as a team, and it’s good to have high performers on board. If your organization does undertake a pilot project, make sure you collect data to prove that it works. Survey the team before, during and after; measure attendance, customer satisfaction and turnover rates; and conduct exit interviews.
Achieving the perfect balance between work and life is a commendable goal that most of us will never achieve. Work-life integration might be easier to attain as it acknowledges the inconvenient mess of heartfelt goals, work overloads, lovely but demanding children, personal tragedies, much needed downtime and even more prescient work disasters, and encourages employees and leaders to collaboratively agree on reasonable solutions.