IS WORK-LIFE BALANCE POSSIBLE?
How do I rest when my couch is also my office?
Should I be available 24/7? I feel like I have to be.
Is every week going to feel like a crisis?
New questions come front of mind when attempting to achieve a healthy lifestyle. As we listen to leaders across multiple business sectors, we hear stories about stress, fatigue, and significant challenges. A holistic way of life looks different as more people work from home than previously imagined. Leaders are searching for answers to help them find work-life balance. A holistic way of life looks different as more people work from home. The impact of the ever-increasing integration of technology in the ways we connect has been a game-changer as well.
How can we balance life amid these changes? Finding equilibrium is incredibly difficult. Yet, leaning on a couple of critical values, or maybe better stated, responsibilities, will allow you to provide boundaries and clarity to our messy lives. Sometimes, I wish I could wave a magic wand so that my social life, work-life, and personal goals would all equally fall into place. However, this isn't very realistic. The balance we long to achieve shows up externally, but often that is only a manifestation of our longing to deal with the internal disarray of our feelings, the lack of control that we may long to exert.
There are a couple of definitions for integrity, and I feel that both are apt in this situation:
1: the quality of being honest and fair
2: the state of being complete or whole
Leaders love to pair integrity with ethics, especially at work, and rightly so! Most leaders value integrity or place it on a wall to show it's a principle for the company. Being truthful is essential when seeking out a healthier lifestyle. Most of the time, the balance we seek comes from less work and more freedom in our personal lives, whether through social interactions, leisure time, or family commitments.
Part of our problem with work-life balance develops when we attempt the "siloing off of ourselves." When we are at work, we compartmentalize the pieces of our personal life that don't match up with work. Internally, this incongruence creates tension, while externally, we feel like we need more time to be "who we really are" as a result. Living a "dis-integrated" life feels wrong. Integrity requires a much deeper form of honesty. It isn't just telling the truth but living the truth of who we are.
Solving our internal frustrations is the most effective precursor to alleviating external stress. Integrity doesn't solve every problem, but it does change our relationship with work. Work will become less of a burden or place of dread as it becomes an integrated part of our lives. It may not seem like this type of integrity is essential, but taking care of this moves the work-life balance problem into a different category. It becomes more about aligning our investments of time and energy and practicing purposeful decision-making.
Accountability is your primary way of setting expectations and creating boundaries for your life. Creating a culture of positive accountability is the bedrock of any effective workplace. Here are the three factors of accountability needed to create space for a healthy work-life balance:
Accountability for your work
Accountability for expectations
Accountability for personal and professional boundaries
Honoring our commitments to work is incredibly important. Especially as it should play a role in fulfilling our purpose, this goes beyond simply corporate purpose but should strike a chord in our hearts. Meaningful work brings joy. It ignites your passion. It helps us lead lives of integrity. As this is the case, we are accountable for doing our jobs and going above and beyond when required. Work is vital to a meaningful, healthy life. However, it is not the only piece of the pie that brings such fulfillment.
The following two factors introduce more complexity because we must practice excellent communication and a willingness to welcome discomfort. To open the door for heightened freedom at work, we must set clear expectations at work. What matters to you? What matters to your organization? Your supervisor? Your direct reports? Setting expectations provides an opportunity for conversations around work-life balance. These conversations allow for change, better understanding, and a willingness toward flexibility. They may even solve any misunderstandings that have hindered effectiveness and efficiency in the past. It's essential to seek out these available opportunities and offer them to others.
Lastly, once you have clarified expectations, practice setting boundaries, boundaries solve two significant problems when successfully implemented: they refine our focus and energy toward healthier goals and alleviate bitterness. Limits allow us to create room for healthier living; they enable us to accomplish goals outside of work. However, they should also keep us from becoming bitter toward our work. Bitterness sets in when we feel pressure or tension in our lives but do not have the conversations to alleviate such stress. Setting expectations and testing boundaries allow us to seek a better way of existence.
Finding the way forward begins when we restore our locus of control. We move from what feels impossible toward what is possible. Working through these steps and fostering clear communication will create expectations and boundaries to which we can be accountable as we lead healthy, holistic lives.