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Working towards a work-life balance.

Work-life balance, is it a dream we talk about and something companies add to their job announcements to entice people to apply? Only to begin work and discover that the balance is heavily tilted to the work side of things. Are we still stuck in the 1980’s of the 9 to 5 fantasy world? Much like Dolly Parton’s song “Workin' 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin', Barely gettin' by, it's all takin' and no givin'“ What a wonderful chorus line.

Perhaps we are still prisoners to time. That mandatory eight-hour shift must be accomplished no matter what. Even when you have completed what was needed, followed up with people to confirm future meetings and/or events and you have your calendar updated. What now? Three hours of web surfing and perfecting your solitaire skills?

According to Statista, 72% of people looking for a job believe that work-life balance is an important factor to consider. For me, I believe work-life balance should also include clearly defined roles and responsibilities. None of this vague stuff you see on job descriptions “other duties may apply.” Leaders and recruiters, stop with that junk and simply put in the job description what those other duties are and what percentage of the time they may apply to. Be transparent.

When we are transparent we begin to build trust. Trust leads to open and respectful communication. When we can communicate effectively the sky’s the limit. Everyone is in the know and on the same page.

Trust comes with some responsibility, for both leader and team member. As a leader I am trusting you’ll do your assigned work to the best your capability. After all that is why you were hired. As a team member I am trusting you to allow me to do what I was hired to do and if anything changes you’ll give me ample notice. Those are the basics of trust in the workplace.

Dear team members, sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot. We say we want a work-life balance, but our actions say otherwise. found that 48% of Americans consider themselves workaholics. 66% of American workers lack work-life balance. Is it the pressure of getting things done, a demanding boss or making up for other’s lack of production and those on leave? Perhaps. But, we also do it to ourselves by not communicating, never asking for clarification about when one can leave for that day. What does a successful day look like to the boss and have we asked them if I achieve this during the business day may I leave once completed whether it takes four, five or eight hours?

If your boss says they need you there for the entire day even though you have completed your assigned duties, ask why? Being respectful and openly curious as to why you are needed and what for. Time is one of the most valuable things we have and it should not be waisted or used for nonsense.

Leaders, if you have a team member busting their butt to get things done and does great work, don’t wear them out. It is easy to do, they have become someone we can depend on and looking from the outside it appears they are passionate and proactive about getting their work done. As leaders we love seeing this. However, we must be the respectful enforcers of work load management which is part of that whole work-life balance. We have to thank those team members for all they do and tell them to scram, go home, you’ve knocked out what was expected of you today. Thank you and see you tomorrow.

When we do this as leaders we are setting the bar for others to follow and achieve. Do your work the right way, and you too will be leaving at 2:00pm. If I need you or have questions I’ll call you. Achieving this can take time. We have to build the trust, communicate openly and respectfully and all parties must do as they say. Be proactive and put it in writing. We do all these OKRs, KPIs and so on, why not a plan/goal for team members to work towards a real work-life balance?

I did this with my teams in the military and in the civilian sector. We worked to standard, not to time. I was very clear with them on my expectations and if I discovered something did not get done or was poorly completed, then they knew I was calling them back in to do it right or get it done and they were back on that traditional 9 to 5 schedule until trust was reestablished.

All of this is about having clear, open and respectful communication. As a leader I never want to hear about a team member missing a kid’s game or their significant other’s important event. At the same time, I expect my team to work to the established standard, no secret “other duties may apply” and if they have concerns that they are comfortable coming to me to speak about them.

A real work-life balance is possible. We just need to express what we want. Most likely you are not working with or for any mind readers, so please communicate. When doing so, have a plan and prove to higher that you’re a person of your word and an excellent team member. Enjoy and be well.

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