Since the 1970s in the U.K. and the 1980s in the U.S., the phrase “work-life balance” has been used to shine a spotlight on presumably unhealthy behaviors of working men and women as it relates to the neglect of families, friends, personal time and the like in favor of work-related activities. Many studies of this issue have shown that women, in particular, are plagued by this seemingly inherent conflict, especially when children/families are involved. As someone who has been in the professional workforce for the entirety of the “work-life balance” debate, I must admit that I have never really agreed with the entire notion. In fact, I don’t even view it as a “work-life balance” but rather as a “life continuum”.
As Tara Weiss of Forbes stated in her article How Extreme Is Your Job? last February, “To get ahead, a 70-hour work week is the new standard. What little spare time is left is often divvied up among relationships, kids and sleep.” However, the article went on to say that “workers were themselves to blame …”, as “64% of those surveyed said their wo rk pressures are self-inflicted … Many of the people interviewed for the study say they love their jobs and are reluctant to lessen their work load.”
Quite simply, our lives consist of many things, all of which must be completed in the 24 hour per day limit. And while there are clearly times where work-related responsibilities demand more of those 24 hours in any given day, there are also times where personal matters do. As a manager, I have always adhered to a philosophy which empowers those around me to find the “right” place on their respective life continuum – manage the outcome, not the process. In short, this means that so long as the necessary outcome is provided when it is needed, how and when it gets accomplished is of no interest.
What managing to outcomes demonstrates to those around me is that I have the faith and trust in them to meet their responsibilities. If ever these individuals require assistance in achieving their respective deliverables, they are fully empowered to solicit support from those required. So, if they need to work late one night or on a weekend day every once in a while, by the same token, they might decide to sleep in on a Tuesday, work from home on a Thursday or take their family to Disneyland on a Wednesday. They just need to make sure their outcomes are ready when they are needed!
Do you have challenges balancing all of your responsibilities from work, family, friends, and personal time? Let me hear about how you go about keeping it all together!
Nina nets it out: Focusing on the “balance” part of the work-life balance can keep us all feeling on edge. Maintaining a focus on outcomes allows leaders to responsibly manage their many competing priorities that form part of life’s continuum.
Nina – what an excellent post. We agree – we are all on a life continuum and it will keep us all sane if we focus on outcomes. We love your paragraph about having trust in people to deliver their results…that’s what it all boils down to. It’s time to let people do whatever they want, whenever they want – as long as the work gets done.
As long as the work gets done, no one cares how you spend your time!
Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson
Creators of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)
Authors of the forthcoming book “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It”
Cali & Jody,
You are both inspirations and welcomed evangelists for the philosophy that I use within my own professional life. I hope that ROWE will catch on more and more as it really does offer tremendous benefits to all parties.
Great post, Nina. I like the focus on outcomes instead of balance. Work and life aren’t two different things anyway. Family life and friendships and work and social life are all part of life.
Cali and Jody say “It’s time to let people do whatever they want, whenever they want – as long as the work gets done.”
That sentiment seems fine to me if you’re talking about individual contributors who don’t need to coordinate with others. But as soon as you introduce work in teams you introduce relationships and relationship issues. Work isn’t all there is at work. There are relationships, too.
Very true statement regarding teamwork and relationships. I live this each and every day. In fact, it is the faith and trust that I have in my team members and that which they have in me that allows us to be a high performing team. Our relationships make the team and the team gets the work done.
Hi Wally – In the case of a Results-Only Work Environment, the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as the work gets done is given to everyone – administrative assistants, other individual contributors, managers, directors, and on up the chain. And, relationships thrive. So much so that productivity goes up an average of 41% on ROWE teams.
Nina hit the nail on the head: it’s all about trust. In order to have an environment that is solely focused on results, trust is the foundational element. Another key element is that the playing field must be equal – everyone must be given the same amount of freedom.
Cali and Jody
Hey Cali & Jody,
I totally agree….there can be NO discrimination in how one gives when it comes to managing outcomes. In fact, I have a geographically dispersed team and each member, despite their physical location or level within the organization, have the freedoms necessary to get their job done however they choose to.
Thanks for your continued driving the ROWE concepts!!