Work-life Balance, Integration, and Harmony: Essential for Well-Being
Those who feel like they have work-life balance are better off than those who might actually have it but don’t perceive themselves to have it
Organizations everywhere proudly proclaim that their people are their most important assets. Human resource departments, populated by human resource specialists, are assembled to ensure that the best people are brought on board, given the training and education that they need to be successful, and have an array of competitive benefits.
Over the years, however, as I speak at conferences and conventions, in person or online, it has become quite clear that while organizations proclaim that the work-life balance of their human resources is important, actually it is given short shrift.
Many times, when I’ve been booked to give a presentation or workshop on attaining work-life balance, integration, and harmony — and delivered more than 1060 of them — my session was scheduled by the host organization merely to placate attendees. These staff people then go back to an oppressive work environment, hoping for some type of respite as the weeks progress.
Misery Leaves Clue
What are some of the hallmarks of a workforce not in balance? For one, credit card debt per capita remains high, meaning that people are spending more than they’re earning. If they had sufficient funds to pay off their credit cards, and avoid the exorbitant interest, most surely would.
Our workforce is gaining weight, which one might imply means that they have no time to exercise. Most people do have time to exercise but they choose not to, instead indulging in activities that require only armchair-related movement.
Perhaps worst of all, the reliance on chemicals – in liquid or pill form – is at alarming levels. Generally speaking, individuals who achieve a sense of work-life balance don’t need to pop pills for this and that.
Carve Out Space and Time
If your organization values work-life balance, you are fortunate. Whether or not that is the case, here are a few strategies, out of dozens, from my book Breathing Space. These strategies will help you to carve out a little space and time for yourself, if not every day, then at least several times per week:
1) Arrive at your workplace early. Don’t leave home at the last minute required to arrive on time. Depart 10 or 15 minutes earlier, even if not necessary. Why? When you arrive earlier than usual, you have a chance to center yourself, reflect on the day ahead, and make small changes to your immediate environment.
All things being equal, the employee who arrives even five minutes early has a better chance of starting the day more focused than the employee who arrives with only a minute to spare.
2) Is it tough for you to eat breakfast at seven and last ‘til lunch at 12, with nothing in between? If so, bring healthy snacks so that you can take that break as needed and maintain your blood sugar level. Otherwise, you might have a craving for the kinds of foods that you don’t need: highly sugared, salted, or fat-laden snacks.
Yes it takes a little time in the morning to cut carrots or put peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, but the payoff comes over and over again as you feel more productive and energetic at work and your performance reflects that.
3) Linger occasionally, 30 to 60 seconds, before going to the restroom, before and after meetings, before and after lunch, and so on. Those extra seconds can make a huge difference in your mental health for that day, and cumulatively, for the days and weeks that follow.
4) When you’re at lunch, be at lunch. Don’t bring work with you, and don’t fret about what you have to do when you return to work. Consume a good, nutritious lunch.
Actually taste the food, and chew it thoroughly. In short, do everything your mother told you to do several decades ago. It makes a difference.
The personal quest for work-life balance is based more on perception than anything else. Those who periodically feel like they have work-life balance are better off than those who might actually have a balance between their work and personal life but don’t perceive themselves to have it!
So, acknowledge the good things going on in your career, at home, and everywhere in between. Your recurring positive thoughts lead to even greater positivity.
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It the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life
Work-life balance (WLB) is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life with sufficient leisure. WLB, also referred to by some as work-life harmony, work-life shift, work-life blend, work-life effectiveness, or work-life integration, requires focus and awareness despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for our time and attention.
Work-life balance entails having what I call “breathing space” for yourself each day, feeling a sense of accomplishment while not being consumed by work, and having an enjoyable domestic life without short-changing career obligations. WLB is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within the course of a day and a week, and however many years you have left in your life.
Several disciplines support work-life balance though, individually, none are synonymous with work-life balance:
1) Self Management
Sufficiently managing one’s self can be challenging, particularly in getting proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Self-management is the recognition that effectively using the spaces in our lives is vital, and that life, time, and available resources are finite. It means becoming captain of our own ship; no one is coming to steer for us.
2) Time Management
Effective time management involves making optimal use of your day and the supporting resources that can be summoned – you can only keep pace when your resources match your challenges. Time management is enhanced through appropriate goals and discerning what is both important and urgent, versus important OR urgent. It entails understanding what you do best and when, and assembling the appropriate tools to accomplish specific tasks.
3) Stress Management
By nature, societies tend to become more complex over time. In the face of increasing complexity, stress on the individual is inevitable. More people, noise, and distractions, independent of one’s individual circumstances, require each of us to become more adept at maintaining tranquility and being able to work ourselves out of pressure-filled situations. Most forms of multi-tasking ultimately increase our stress, while focusing on one thing at a time helps decrease stress.
4) Change Management
In our fast-paced world, change is virtually the only constant. Continually adopting new methods, adapting old, and re-adapting all methods is vital to a successful career and a happy home life. Effective change management involves offering periodic and concerted efforts so that the volume and rate of change at work and at home does not overwhelm or defeat you.
5) Technology Management
Effectively managing technology requires ensuring that technology serves you, rather than abuses you. Technology has always been with us, since the first walking stick, spear, flint, and wheel. Today, the rate of technological change is accelerating, brought on by vendors seeking expanding market share. Often you have no choice but to keep up with the technological Joneses, but rule technology, don’t let it rule you.
6) Leisure Management
The most overlooked of the work-life balance supporting disciplines, leisure management acknowledges 1) the importance of rest and relaxation, 2) that “time off” is a vital component of the human experience, and 3) that one can’t indefinitely short-change leisure without repercussions. Curiously, too much of the same leisure activity, however enjoyable, can lead to monotony. Thus, effective leisure management requires varying one’s activities.
Achieving work-life balance does not require radical changes in what you do. It is about developing fresh perspectives and sensible, actionable solutions that are appropriate for you. It is fully engaging in life with what you have, right where you are, smack dab in the ever-changing dynamics of your existence.
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Let us be free to like what we like and not have others be the gatekeepers of our intellectual pursuits
I read a remarkable Letter to the Editor in a college newspaper, from a young black student. The point of his letter was so amazing and its insights so profound that it needs to be shared across the country for everyone, of all races.
This student wrote that, as a black male, it would inaccurate to make judgments about him without knowing him personally. He highlighted, for example, that while he likes some rap music, he much prefers traditional rock and roll, and even an occasional country song.
Is Your Bias Showing?
He wrote that if you think a black student should not like country music then your bias is showing. Why couldn’t a student, of any race or ethnicity, enjoy a particular type of music even if it’s not traditionally ascribed to his or her particular group? Who is in control here?
He likes historical novels, modern novels, biographies, and autobiographies. He was captivated by a biography about the Wright Brothers. He enjoys poetry and finds the poems from many writers to be relevant to him, from Maya Angelou to Carl Sandberg.
He suggests that there is a world of possibilities when it comes to entertainment, music, and literature. Why, he asks, must we be confined to the narrow band of choices that others, particularly within our own races and ethnicities, suggest that we adhere to? Who decides what is best for all members of a particular group? On what do they base their decisions?
Who determined that venturing outside of such restrictive limits is somehow being a traitor to one’s group? And what does it mean to even be a traitor when it comes to literature, history, music, and so on?
He pointed out in the most eloquent of terms that following the dictates of a small section of the populace and adhering to the stereotypes that prevail are extremely limiting to one’s personal freedom and an attack on one’s individuality and, potentially, creativity.
With so many experiences and possibilities that one can enjoy, he ponders, why limit yourself, especially at the age of 19, 20, or 21 to predefined, limiting confines?
No Free for All
I marveled at this young man’s wisdom which seems to transcend his years. I certainly was not as wise and perceptive myself at that age.
Over the next few days, I was eager to see if there would be any responses to his letter. Surely, he’s going to get some blowback. Someone of his own race will tell him that he needs to get “back in his lane.” Someone will tell him he’s “not acting black,” or not black enough. Somebody else will say that he’s been brainwashed, probably from an early age and he’s trying to capitulate to the predominant Caucasian culture. Someone might call him an “Uncle Tom.”
While I was monitoring the publication, actually nothing was said of his letter. I hoped maybe somebody else, or lots of somebody else’s, understood the man’s viewpoint. They could see the wisdom in his observations. I thought perhaps someone would comment in that direction, but that didn’t happen either.
Free to Choose
In the larger sense, it’s a shame that blacks and other minorities, as well as Caucasians, are supposed to act this way or that way. Hispanics are supposed to prefer this versus that. Asians are supposed to do this versus that. Why, exactly, do these illegitimate confines continue to rule the perceptions of vast numbers of our population?
Why can’t we be free to like what we like, to prefer what we prefer, and have others not be the gatekeepers of our intellectual pursuits?
I have no knowledge of this young man and how he has fared in his studies and overall life. I surmise that whatever he’s doing, whether it’s continuing in his education, landing a job, entering the military, volunteering, traveling, or simply taking time off, he will continue to pursue his interests and remain unique.
Bound for Success
Hopefully, he’ll continue to sidestep unwarranted, prevailing norms that dictate what he can like, think, and be. May we all strive to have such personal freedom.
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