Mother’s day has me thinking about work-life balance and all the moms out there trying to find balance between their hectic lives and responsibilities. Over the years, work-life balance has extended beyond working mothers to include a variety of situations we maybe hadn’t encountered before: grandparents taking care of their grandkids, adults taking care of their elderly parents, etc.; despite the evolution of work-life balance it seems like many of us still cannot find it.
The phrase work-life balance (really the use of the word balance) conjures up visions of days where we parcel out the hours of the day for different categories (8-12 = work time, 1-2: personal time) but that isn’t very realistic. At least not where I have ever worked; some days are the opposite of balance where you spend 10+ hours finalizing compensation planning or reporting. Other days can skew the opposite, you may be at work for 8 hours but your mind is somewhere else.
So it was with great interest that I read an article about work-life Integration by Craig Chappelow. It struck a chord with me because it is so much more sensible then many one-size-fits all options I’ve read about previously which aren’t always very realistic. Here are the highlights from Craig’s article (you can find the original here):
- Understand your behavior – Do you tend to put your family first or work? Do you tend to work on family and work things at the same time? Or do you prefer to separate the time you spend on each with no overlap? Recognize which styles fit your behavior. This isn’t about what type of person you should be but who you really are. In my case I’m a classic integrator, meaning I blend personal and work tasks. I tend to get great ideas when I’m not at work so I email myself or leave a voicemail so I don’t forget in the morning.
- Discover your identity – Again, this is about being honest. Do you identify yourself first and foremost as a VP? Or as a wife and mother?
- Take back control – How much control do you have over your work? Your family life? Finding a job where you have control at a level you feel comfortable can be difficult to say the least. Many jobs are geared for low levels of control by the individual (such as a collector) but it is important to understand what degree of control you prefer, this can help you make decisions about your career path.
I like the idea of work-life integration because it gives people an understanding of what works for them and how to make that work with work and family. Too many times organizations are faced with loads of data from a survey that tells us our 500 employees want 15 different work schedules. It’s impossible for most organizations to accomplish that kind of planning. Instead most organizations are trying to stay on top of what their customers want. When a client needs a deliverable by x date and time, there is no room for the warm and fuzzy balance.
Work- life integration empowers people to understand themselves and make decisions based off of that knowledge. Instead of the faceless HR team working with the faceless leadership team to design programs that will “help” employees achieve balance, work -life integration helps employees understand themselves. The faceless teams that design programs (although well intentioned) don’t know and can’t know every individual employee so they design programs that are fit for a large homogenous population. The employee isn’t really helped because they may not understand what works for them or the program as designed doesn’t fit their individual needs. Integration helps an employee understand themselves and their optimal working environment, and in the best scenario, employees can make better, informed decisions and work directly with their managers/teams. Sounds like a win/win to me. Down with work-life balance!