Balancing Work and Life
Even though we are constantly told the importance of a work-life balance many people still openly struggle with this. I work in a diverse environment and some of my colleagues set good examples of a positive work-life balance while others are dismal at it. How many times have I come into work in the morning to see emails that were sent to me at 11pm the night before? Or 2am?
The hardest part of this for many people is that some leaders have an expectation that you are always “on” – that is, you are always receiving and responding to requests. I have encountered many leaders who, misunderstanding their lack of balance as a healthy work ethic, have disdain for anyone who isn’t constantly plugged in and answering email. This can be challenging because where I am trying to maintain a work-life balance I feel like I am not measuring up to expectations. I do not even work in an exempt position, and yet even then there are times I feel the weight of the expectation.
Good leaders are those that understand their teams are made up of people with lives. These are people with children, spouses, hobbies, other obligations such as caregiving, and school, among numerous other things. And no one is going to perform optimally if they never have time to recharge.
I think of my mother as a good example. She is a manager with a team of over 100 people that cover a 24-hour operation. For her, it truly never ends. She will check her email periodically in her off time, but only responds to truly urgent requests. She understands that for business as usual issues, they can wait until she returns to business, as usual.
I admire this. As a leader, she understands being accessible to her team; however, she will defer to the leadership of those under her to make routine decisions in her absence. A good example of how a work-life balance can be modeled.
Life places demands on us differently in different seasons of our lives. Sometimes people are placed in situations better suited to working longer hours, while others are not. I am not advocating a 6 hour work day and then leaving before the work is done; however, no one can be plugged in for 18 hours a day and function optimally. Yet, day after day I see people who think they are, and it’s troubling to me.
Instead, they are missing out on time with their family, or finally devoting time to health and fitness. Or they have dropped out of things they once enjoyed doing, stopped pursuing hobbies, or being involved in their churches or the community. I hear many of these people say, “someday when I have time….” And in truth, we never know how long we have, or how long that circular pattern of behavior will last.
So, today I acknowledge the hard workers, who come in each day and give their best to their work, support their teams and processes, and then go home at the end of the day knowing that work helps us make a living, but everything else is life!