Where were you 5 year ago? It seems like another lifetime to me. It was when I made a choice that impacted and enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the time. It was 5 years ago this month that I left the comfort and security of my full-time corporate communication job to start a consulting company focused on work-life balance.
Many people thought I was nuts, (some still do) some wanted to quit with me and others watched with curiosity to see what would happen. Turns out companies care more about their employees that what many employees might think or feel. Turns out, people at all levels have a lot to say on this topic and the conversations show no signs of slowing down.
Over the last 5 years I’ve noticed many things that I’ve made an attempt to capture in a think paper: From China to Chile: The Challenges, Triggers, and Choices about Work-Life Balance. Spoiler alert – work-life balance has nothing to do with the number of hours you work, your family structure or your gender.
I’m grateful beyond words to have had the fortune to facilitate conversations on the topic in 20 countries and reach another 10 virtually. These conversations and countless other in cafes, bars and airport lounges around the world have shaped this paper and deepened my awareness on the real issues humans face when it comes to seeking balance.
Thank you to every person in my workshops, (and strangers on planes who sat next to me) for having the courage to be honest with themselves and me about what balance mean to them and what life would be like if they had it.
Here is to 2018 and thousands more conversations on the real issues surrounding the topic.
Sheryl Sandberg chief operating officer of Facebook and author of the new book Lean In is making waves on the topic of work-life balance and women in the workplace. As an author and expert on work-life balance I’m grateful to see the issues getting media time in a new way. If I’m being truthful, I feel mixed about her messages.
Don’t get me wrong –I love the conversation she is creating about women and ambition. I absolutely agree and support her message and can identify with many times in my life where I didn’t lean in – where I sat back and watched; only now seeing that I was just as worthy as anyone else in the room to have a seat (and voice) at the table.
My mixed feelings come from some of the comments about work-life balance coming out of the conversation. I fear the topic is being dragged back to the 1970’s when it was perceived as a working woman’s issue. It is not, it is a human issue.
I have worked with men and women in over 30 counties and I know first-hand the struggles to balance life is not gender specific. Men and women might use different words to describe the pressures and emotions they are felling, but the outcome is the same – men and women both struggle with the choices and tradeoffs they feel are required to “make it” in the modern working world.
Sheryl thank you for bringing the conversation back in to the spotlight. Now let’s take it to the next level and talk about it as a human issue. It’s time to open our eyes to the impact work-life balance is having on countries, companies and individuals around the world.
Why do you text someone and when is it ok text? Really, why do you choose to send a text over calling, sending an e-mail or in some cases saying nothing at all?
Texting is so fast and easy many times it’s hard to resist firing off a quick idea or thought, (or an update on arrival time) when in reality, it’s not necessary or the right tool to deliver the message. Five years ago would you have called someone to say “parking now”?
Our relationship with our mobile devices is getting more and more complicated, we use it to call, e-mail, Skype, and text we work from it and run the rest our life from it. So when using it for 2-way communication one can assume there is a conscious choice to use a specific method to match the message.
When it comes to texting, I’ve found people all over the map with why and when they use it and the choice isn’t very conscious at all. For example, I’ve been noticing my own texting habits. A few times I sent texts with messages I’m not sure I’d say to face-to-face and I sent texts to avoid conversations. I also sent texts for context on location and timing and some to make people feel good. And when I made the effort to think about it there were many texts I didn’t send at all that became e-mails or conversations and some things I didn’t share at all. What I learned for me is if I can’t say to someone – I will not text it.
Coming back to the beginning – why do you text someone and when is it ok text? (There is not right or wrong answer – only what is right for you.)
There has been quite a bit of buzz lately about work-life balance in the media. One thing in particular people have been asking me about are the changes at Yahoo, where CEO Marissa Mayer has banished the work from home policy. Some studies say over 26 million people work from home. For each of those 26 million people I believe it’s a privilege to do so. Companies do not have to offer this as a benefit, they choose to for many reasons and employees have come to expect as a given.
From what I understand about the issue this wasn’t a random decision, the data showed that overwhelming employees were abusing the privilege and were not actually working when they said there were. It takes an enormous about of discipline and commitment to one’s role to be able to successfully work at home, day after day. As we talk about in my workshops – work is about outcomes not hours and location and if the outcomes are not there then changes to behavior have to be made – in this case the change made was around location.
Now, if after a year when stronger work outcomes (hopefully) have been achieved if the policy maintains then I will have something different to say. For now, each company is different and has its own unique challenges and goals and there are some cases and points in time where working from home is not the right thing for the company. Part of any job is to support what is right for the company, especially if you are both and employee and stockholder in that company.
There is more research on the the positive impact to productivity and moral when employees use standing desks. An article posted today to Medcity News, states that standing at work can add as much as 2 years to your life. Yup – 2 years – regardless of a person’s fitness level. Even if your company doesn’t offer the option for standing workstations, if you are a corporate athlete, it’s worth considering how to get off your bum a bit more during the day.
A very smart 11 year old girl shared some sage wisdom with her father last night, “I can’t tell you what success is, but I can tell you that failure is trying to please everyone”. So right she is. I see it in every workshop I teach in every country I visit; the desire to please everyone is a root case of life imbalance in and outside of the workplace.
We all do it, at least once in a while, agree to do something we don’t want to do or have no intention of following through on. Some of us do it more than others and the reason isn’t because there is anything wrong with that person or the way they think or function in the world, it’s actually comes from a place of good intention.
People try to please everyone because it’s our nature to please others, when the tribe is happy and at ease we are safe. Not to mention I have yet to meet a person who enjoys disappointing someone. We all want to be liked, more than that we want to be accepted and loved for what we believe in. It’s an emotional risk to say no to others. They might reject us, get mad at us or not support what we believe in. So it makes sense that we say yes sometimes to prevent rejection or an argument.
The thing to consider is, each yes you give to someone else that you don’t truly support or feel good about, is a no, a rejection to yourself. There is a fine line between an authentic yes to someone else and an authentic yes to your own needs. The magic is that the people in your life who truly support you will understand the difference and will be completely at ease with your no’s.
Ask yourself, would you rather be loved by a few people who really support what’s important to you or by many who don’t really know what you stand for?
This time of year, you see it discussed on television, hear it on the radio, your friends and family might be talking about it too, resolutions for the New Year. Don’t get me wrong I’m a huge fan of setting goals and looking at the big picture of what you want to create in life.
What drives me crazy is the hugeness of many people resolutions. It’s no wonder so many folks fail or ditch them entirely before the calendar turns to February. Setting intentions can revolutionize your life, but the intentions don’t have to revolutionary to do so.
Participants from my workshops have told me their entire lives have changed just by not taking their cell phones into the bedroom at night. Others have shared that creating date night with their partners has transformed their relationships and others say that learning to listen to their bodies has reduced the level of stress in their life. These are not life changing resolutions, they are small intentional actions.
Instead of thinking about setting big resolutions for the whole year, maybe choose one or two intentional actions to practice each day.