Achieving Work-Life Balance

Did you ever notice how a profound hallway discussion can have an impact on your life?

As a young CFO working in a Catholic hospital, I was running to another meeting during budget season.  Looking a little rushed and disheveled, I encountered a Sister of Saint Francis of Philadelphia who had previously worked in the accounting department; but now volunteered in the hospital. She stopped me and said “Good morning, Ron.  Are the books balanced?”

Not wanting to be impolite, but somewhat stressed and running late, I answered, “Of course, Sister.  Debits always equal credits–assets equal liabilities plus capital.  What kind of CFO would I be if I let the books get out of balance?”

She replied “No, Ron. The books of your life–are they in balance?”

Her question stopped me cold.  “No Sister, they are not.  You see, its budget season and I’ve been working long hours.  I haven’t had a chance to spend time with the family for a couple of weeks. I certainly haven’t been eating well or taking care of myself.  But I promise you, as soon as I get this budget done, I’ll get my life books back in balance pronto.”

Are the books of your life balanced?

blogConsider the problem as a triangle with Work on one side, Family on the second, and Self on the third.  In the work bucket, client expectations, staff considerations, deadlines, career demands, training and travel dominate demands on time.  Family represents time carved out for relationships–predominantly with spouse and children, but secondarily for parents and then extended family. The Self side of the triangle is to recharge your personal batteries.  For me, this often takes the form of spiritual life and worship, serving as a volunteer, golf, beach vacations and reading.  The solution is to find the proper balance for the triangle that achieves harmony in the expectations for my life over a long period of time.  There are of course budget seasons, family illnesses, or week-long vacations that throw the triangle out of whack for a short duration. Keeping the triangle balanced over a long period is my personal work-life balance goal.

Allow me to address some ideas from two perspectives.

As leaders, we have the responsibility to create an environment that allows for healthy work-life balance.  Many professionals and numerous studies indicate flexibility in the work place results in more engaged, trusted and motivated teams.  A couple of considerations:

  • Model the behavior: If possible, avoid contacting your team outside of work hours. Respect their personal time and only reach out if it is absolutely necessary. If you are responding to e-mail late at night, on weekends and while on vacation, you are sending a message of expectations to the rest of your team that they are expected to do the same.
  • Provide for flexibility: If possible, allow alternative work arrangements and schedules. If an employee’s job can be performed just as well at home, allow them the option to modify their schedules when necessary to do so.

As an individual seeking work-life balance, take ownership of the situation.  It is not your employer’s responsibility to achieve balance for you. A good company can produce policies, procedures and an environment that allows for a healthy work-life balance, but ultimately it is up to the individual to assume the responsibility for achieving their personal balance. A few considerations:

  • Understand your priorities and ideal life: There are times when demands on your life will mean your triangle be out of whack. If you desire and value career success over family be prepared to work long hours. A personal or family illness may limit your work commitments. Assess your situation against your personal standards and take action if your personal triangle appears out of alignment with your priorities at that period of your life.
  • Disconnect: With today’s technology, we are almost constantly linked to the world. There is always something to do, something urgent to address. Set strict limits on personal time versus work time. Leave the phone off when spending time with family.  Find hobbies and personal fulfillment activities that are unrelated to work and do not involve technology.

Are the books of your life in balance? I’d love to hear your tips and advice for finding balance in your workplace and life.

 
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