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.