As Community spread continues the possibility of us returning to work from home with varying scales remains high.
We have spent 3 months practicing work from home and most of our teams are now ready and equipped for this reality.
As I continue to host group coaching sessions with leaders and teams, most teams are concerned with the their work life balance and ask how to maintain this as they go forward.
As work from home becomes institutionalized, it may be difficult to actually perceive a separation between our work and our personal lives. Our workplaces have now encroached our lives.
We no longer have to leave home to go to the workplace and we can no longer close our doors on the workplace. Our dining room table is now an office desk, our kettle is the work coffee station and our co workers noisy radio is replaced by the sounds of the children’s cartoon.
Those of us who have sworn never to take home work, now have work as permanent and prominently features at our homes. It seems that the balance has been tilted on the side of work since it now resides with us at home.
There are two aspects of this for me. There is the work and the life, that we are being asked to hold in balance. I want to separate them before I rejoin them so that we can deal with either as a separate piece before bringing them back as a whole .
Lets deal with life
What was the quality of your life before the Coronavirus?
Were you happy, proud, disappointed with your life before the Coronavirus?
The stay at home and the other effects of Corona would have compounded and shown you exactly what is the quality of your life.
A lot of us live our lives with distractions, which is not a bad thing. They may look different from person to person and they keep us going. For some of us it may be the exercise, for others liming, for some travelling. What’s yours?
During covid we had to stay at home without distraction and face ourselves. We had to look at the man/ woman in the mirror and we got a long hard look at our reflection. For the first time in a long time, we saw how we related to ourselves and to our families and our loved ones. Maybe we liked what we saw, maybe we didn’t. We were forced to acknowledge our way of life and not all of us wanted to keep looking.
Part of our lives is also the relationships that we share. Cabin fever is a real thing and for some of us we learned that we didn’t know and in some cases we may not like the people with whom we lived.
We realized that with the bustle of life that we were not spending quality time with each other and we needed to relearn each other. This may have been rewarding to some.
I saw a hilarious and horrifying tweet thread that suggested that people were horrified at their spouses workplace ego. Some people recognized that they were living with the office bully or living with the brownnoser. We have never seen how each other work and now we may have had to recalibrate our opinions of others based on their work behaviour
That’s a lot of reveals in a short space of time, which did not always help our life.
In response to the messiness of life very often we turn to work. It makes perfect sense.
As humans we do what brings us pleasure and for a lot of us our work is joy. Work is also predictable we more or less get what we put into the job. Life on the other hand is messy, involves other people and plans often go awry.
It’s a no brainer about where to invest our time, work gives us a more immediate and much higher return on our time investment.
At work, we realized that there is a difference between accessible and available. Team members may be accessible and they do not need to be available at all times.
Most leaders confused the two thinking that because they knew where team members were that they could call on team members whenever they wanted. For most leaders this was a teething problem, they were new to managing teams remotely and thought this was the best way forward. over the last 3 months some leaders realized that staff were in fact being responsible and doing as they required and eased up on this behaviour.
Yes I am aware that there are some leaders who are still closely monitoring their teams.
I don’t think this is a phenomenon of working from home. I think that in those teams there was always a lack of trust and the remote working is highlighting the situation. These leaders either have no trust in themselves as leaders, or don’t trust that their teams will follow their lead or don’t trust their team members.
I have not heard any leader complain about the lack of productivity during the work from home and most team members have said that they have achieved more than their expected results.
Lastly leaders, What is the culture of your office around work?
Some workplaces celebrate long hours and think that people who put their personal or family life first are losers.
Some offices promote missing family events as signs of loyalty to the office not realizing that life is being destroyed.
Some team members sacrifice family time and relationships on the altars of high performance and leaders applaud these decisions as evidence of dedication.
At these workplaces long hours, weekend work and tight deadlines are considered hallmarks of success.
Now that we have examined work and life dear reader what do you preference your work or your life? What is the reason for your preference?
A 2001 study in the UK said that work life imbalance was more likely to be reported, by those working longer hours. It was also more likely to be reported by those in managerial positions and on a higher income; by women rather than men and by those with dependent children; and by multiple-job holders.
On the positive side, those who reported that they worked in an organization with a friendly climate, where more human resource practices are in place and where they have more scope for direct participation and autonomy, reported less imbalance.
This report gives us some tips
Lets start at the top and be deliberate about the culture that we are building around work and life.
What do our cultures promote? We need to ensure that our workplaces do not penalize fathers for wanting to see their children being born or that women don’t lose their spots because of maternity leave. We also need to have a culture that does not penalize people who want other things.
Leaders we need to encourage team members to take their holidays to attend family functions and to take breaks from work.
We need to stop thinking that if I can do it they can do it as well and understand that each individual has different needs and different levels of contribution to make.
We need to be flexible.
We need to highlight the need for routines with our team members. Encourage them to plan and take scheduled breaks. Retain the morning 10-minute coffee break, the lunch break and the bathroom breaks. Remind them that the breaks offer a good time to check in on their children. We should be monitoring for those exceptions as well.
Lunch-time can offer opportunities for socialization through lunch and learns and families can be invited in.
Leaders encourage team members to find their rhythm and point out when their routines are also not working.
We can demonstrate what routines look like by scheduling meetings at the same time each week and having work deadlines .
We also need to ensure that team members work a certain number of hours a week.
As community spread widens, we need to be physically distant and we do not have to be socially distant.
Leaders reach out to team members and and check in both with those who live alone and those who live with others.
Some clients host zoom hangouts during which team members have a coffee together and shoot the breeze.
Leaders we need to plant the seeds and remind staff that there is more to life.
This may seem like a ticklish topic since we often think that Money is the main factor to the quality of life. Before I go on let me ask. Have you ever gotten a raise and 6 months after expenses just seem to rise to match the raise? Yes that happens with most of us.
What’s the quality of life that you are allowing yourself? What are you doing that takes away from or adds to your quality of life?
This is not about how much money you have it is about the people who are around you, you doing the things that you love unapologetically and the amount of happy or sad in your life.
What makes your heart sing? When last did you do that?
Many of us at some point in time we give up the things dearest to us in pursuit of the career and then we are left feeling that something is missing.
As I progressed in my career as an accountant I gave up my love for writing and I felt the imbalance in my life. It is only when I restarted writing and published my two books that I felt resonance in my t became balanced life, since I operate daily with what makes my heart sings.
Those who have regained your heartsong you know what I mean. For the others who haven’t take some time to think about that one thing that you did that you were just happy doing and reintroduce it into your life. A sure way to maintain some balance.
On an individual level, let’s get help in every way that we can. It could be something as simple as buying frozen dough instead of making bread or ordering groceries to pick up instead of going to the stores or getting help to clean the house. In whatever way we can lets make our living simpler and easier.
We also need to take care of our emotional mental and physical states by being aware of how we are doing. We need to slow down and pay attention to ourselves since it is ourselves that will bring us through.
We know that work from home is in our future. The second wave of covid will see many team members retreat to their homes. Beyond covid some employers will realize that there are cost savings and promote work from home as the way forward.
Work life balance suggests that we hold the two in balance on a daily basis.
I have the image of a seesaw with work on one side and life on the other. Some days the seesaw tips in favor of work and on other days it tips on the side of life. Think of the fine balancing act to hold the two sides of the see-saw at an equal level. It feels almost impossible to do so and this is what we struggle with. There is an unseen tension in holding the two sides even, it is difficult to maintain the balance.
Let’s try another image. Think of the sea saw and move the life and work away from their separate ends and bring them together in the middle of the see saw.
Now work and life together become the pivot on which the see saw easily swings. Feel the release of the tension. I know it sounds too easy.
Consider that life is a continuum in which there is a feature called work. It’s not either or it is part of our life. It’s just one of the multiple realities of our life and we hold it in perspective and in context to our lives.
I would love to know how you manage your work life balance.
Drop me a line at my website www/Maxineattong.com or via linked in or ig.
My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.
If you have any topics that you want discussed or any questions answered then visit my website and send them to me
At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to promote work-life balance. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on on my website at maxineattong.com, linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong. You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading