by Paula on July 14, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve put pen to paper (ok, fingers to keyboard) to write a blog and that’s a lot to do with the focus of this blog. The much-debated phrase “Work/Life Balance“.

As a manager, daughter, friend, wife, partner of people struggling to find this nirvana, I read with interest articles and blogs offering viewpoints and solutions, However, my offering is that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A WORK/LIFE BALANCE.

We have a life….that’s it….one life.

We don’t get half a life as we balance it with this other thing called work. When we are work we are living too – this is all part of the crazy, mixed-up, wonderful array of ways we spend our time which has one name – LIFE.

Life Balance

Life BalanceThis life we have is made up of many different parts. We spend time at work, with friends, with family, doing chores and hobbies, relaxing, socialising, thinking, sleeping. Where the balance comes is making sure that the spread of things that require our mental and physical energy works for us. There is no optimum amount of time to be spent working, it is all down to the individual and what they personally have to give and the ever-changing demands of the other areas of our life.

Quite simply, if one area of life is easy-going and flowing well we have more energy for others. And if one area of our life is causing us a lot of stress and challenge, we have little left to offer the others. The challenge comes in:

  • recognising when one area of our life needs more of our energy and attention, and
  • being able to flex the other areas in order to give it the time it needs until that time passes.

Recognising balance in the workplace

As a manager I have seen people who were at one time thriving in a workplace, start to struggle and under-perform. This can result in errors, lower output and friction in a team. The chances are that there are influences outside of work that are asking more of this person and they have less to give in the workplace. Sadly this lowered effort can result in heavier pressure being put on from a manager. They lack interest (or time) in finding out why and yet the overall increase of pressure in more than one area of life can cause the employee to implode. Stress / illness / breakdown. Each individual has 100% to give and how this is divided up will determine their successes and struggles.

As a manager with a business to run, the thought of putting time and awareness into your employee’s life as a whole can seem way above the demands of the role, however this time invested well along the way is far easier to contend with than a sudden deterioration in output followed by an unknown level of absence. Knowing what’s going on, how it affects your employee and the duration of the potential stresses can cause you to prepare for and work round these periods and not be uprooted by them.

Taking control of your balance

Career LadderLooking from the other angle, I am increasingly seeing individuals who are recognising in themselves their overall energy capacity and are making conscious choices to take energy from the workplace and invest it into other areas. These people are turning their back on the usual career ladder of pushing yourself until you reach the rung one step below a nervous breakdown and choosing to work in positions that are easily within their capability and ask much less of them mentally and timewise. They then take this additional time and energy and put it somewhere that means more to them. They have more energy for family, for friends, for other pursuits. They perform better at work because it is within their ability so they over-achieve and delight in the workplace which rewards them with good feeling and confidence to take and further invest elsewhere.

But the money I hear you cry! Less responsibility at work means less money and I NEED all this money to sustain my lifestyle.

Actually do you? Those who I have witnessed balancing their life differently may receive less income from a workplace but gone also are the expensive take-aways and meals out as they have the time and energy to shop and cook. Gone are the supports that helped them cope with the stress – cigarettes, alcohol, shopping . Gone are the need to spend lots of money on the family in order to ease the guilt of offering them little in the way of time and attention. Gone is the need to pay people to do things for you that you have no time and energy to do yourself. As with all things that are balanced many ways, taking from one will give to another and this has effects that ripple through many areas.

And to sum up I guess that’s where my last year has been. Changes in my personal life have meant a need and a desire to give more of my time and energy to the people around me. My mental capacity was all used up and there was nothing left to wring out into a blog. It’s been a life-changing year but a positive one and thanks to the ability to turn off the gas in some areas and turn it up in others, all have reached this point happy and intact.

Take a look at your life balance this evening. What is taking a bit too much from you and what could do with a bit more? What can you do about it? Good luck.

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