As per Wikipedia, “work/life balance” is a term commonly used to describe the balance that a working individual needs to delineate, between work and other aspects of life such as personal interests, family and social or leisure activities. The term came about in the US in the 1980s but has long since evolved and then dissolved thanks to modern take technology and smart phones. And the recent transition to “work from home” has blurred the lines even further.
So how do we take the reins back and find a happy medium between our professional and personal time?
I was recently engaged in a conversation on this very topic with a well respected HR professional. As I was describing my personal situation, balancing work and my family (I have an 8 year old and have been helping my mother following my father’s passing), I expressed gratitude for my current position and colleagues. It was not for the work/life balance they afforded me but for the work/life respect.
I remember the CEO of my company saying he doesn’t worry about me because he knows my office is wherever I am, and more important respects when that office is closed. For example, the summer leading up to my father’s passing in 2018, he was gravely ill, and my boss never once asked about my whereabouts as I was working remotely from his hospital. The work got done (and even then there was flexibility given my circumstances).
Now, I recognize as someone 20+ years into their career in an executive role, having been with my company for close to 4 years, I am in a unique situation. Less experienced colleagues for starters made not have yet earned that type of flexibility in their role and not everyone has a job that can be performed remotely.
So enough about me – let’s talk about general guidelines for obtaining not just work/life balance but work/life respect.
In general, to foster an environment that promoted work/life balance encourage your employees (and yourself) to:
- Set boundaries
- Prioritize tasks and time
- Take breaks
- Take vacation time
- Mandatory black-outs
- Communicate concerns and successes
- Lead by example
To be an empathetic employer respect your employees and their personal lives. Trust that they will do the right thing until they give you a reason not to. Even then, encourage strong manager/employee relationships and communication.
By providing some flexibility, following are some common occurrences that will help you build respect with your employees:
- Family obligations and responsibilities (your child, a niece/nephew, best friend)
- Emotional well-being issues
- Relationship/marital troubles
- Relationship/marital celebrations
- Beyond FMLA – Elder/Child-care
Every employee’s needs and wants are unique and different. What’s important to one may be trivial and irrelevant to another. Create a safe space for open communication and allow for an open dialogue to address what matters most to each individual.