Inherent challenges in work life balance.
As we close the books on August and Labor Day approaches, many of us prepare to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers, say goodbye to another summer, and turn our full attention back to school or work.
With summer memories still so fresh, many seek the ideal work/life balance that allows the fun to continue without sacrificing success, but a trio of recent articles highlight the inherent challenges of achieving the right work/life balance and offer some different perspectives.
ComputerWorld blogger Jonny Evans shares some direct advice with employers still clinging to the rigidness of a 9-5 schedule: “These days it’s less important to choose your time, and far more important to clearly define and communicate your goals if you want to deploy highly productive, highly motivated teams.”
Evans dug into a new report in late July from Qatalog and GitLab and calls for employers to “wake up and embrace change” in “Striving for a better balance in the future of work.” The report “explains how employers insisting on a 9-5 workday in this digital age reduce productivity and increase staff churn with little payback.” Evans reminds us how smartphones and tablets “showed the potential for mobile technology to transform how we work” and the “quantum leap forward” that happened when the pandemic struck.
The report suggests employers should “learn to embrace flexibility, not just in terms of where people work, but also in terms of when.” Evans explains that this outdated notion of “coordinated working hours in offices grew out of working patterns in factories at a time when the technology for business was mainly an in-person exercise.”
Evans also touches on a huge problem many others have acknowledged. According to the same report, “54% of staff feel pressured to always appear online and visible.” This finding should alarm some employers who have already embraced remote and asynchronous work. Yes, goals and expectations must be clearly communicated, but employees still need the flexibility to live lives “away” from work. They need these goals and expectations to be reasonable, in other words.
David Nadelle, a blogger for GoBankingRates.com, further explored this core challenge for many remote workers of not being able to unplug in “Work-Life Imbalance: Half of Professionals Cannot Unplug During Paid Time Off.” In the post, Nadelle details how difficult it can be for workers to disconnect even when on vacation and explores a recent survey from Fishbowl by Glassdoor that found more than half of professionals (54%) “admitted they were unable to disengage with work when on paid time off.” According to Nadelle, the study argues “if incorporated correctly, with distinct work and non-work boundaries set, the advantages of a more flexible work schedule and/or unlimited paid time off may help the growing number of employees unable to truly disconnect from work while on vacation.”
Suggesting an entirely different way of thinking, in “How Work-Life Integration Breaks the Mold,” Entrepreneur Contributor Amanda Reill advocates for work-life “integration” over balance and emphasizes, though this may sound new to many in the modern workforce, “work-life integration is not really a new concept.” Reill points to the work-life overlap in homesteading that’s prevalent in Little House on the Prairie, in which “work and parenting are almost indistinguishable” and asks how these same principles can apply in the digital world.
Reill suggests a first step and offers a mini roadmap for workers to achieve this integration. Start by taking “an inventory of your ability to pivot – having the ability to self-govern and the sensitivity to prioritize the most crucial needs in work or life,” she advises. She also stresses the importance of transparency, trust and accountability in bringing it all together successfully.
All of these assessments of the current state of work-life balance, the drawbacks of outdated management practices, and the promise of new and more ideal ways to pursue a career emphasize the delicate balance involved, the trust required and the need to be flexible in all we do.
As we close the books on another summer, we hope you’ll join us in re-examining how managing your personal and professional lives can help take your career and your personal life to 11. You might end up with a better sense of where you want to be and the newfound clarity and motivation you need to get there.