Work-life Balance

by Barbara Buffton

Common questions

  1. How can I help a team member who is letting everything get on top of him?
  2. The whole company culture is about working long hours – can I change this?
  3. I travel too much with the company and am in danger of messing up my home life – what can I do?
  4. Everyone wants a piece of me – how can I get the balance right?
  5. Should I be feeling guilty about asking staff to stay late?
  6. I think it’s really important to finish everything on my ‘to-do’ list. What’s wrong with that?

 

1. How can I help a team member who is letting everything get on top of him?

It sounds as if this person is under some stress. First of all, it’s important to have a one-to-one session to explore the possible causes of the stress. Is the overwhelm coming from work pressures, home life, some other area or a combination? Is this a long-standing pattern or is this overwhelm something new in their life? If it is new, when did it start and what else was going on at the time? Once you have some idea of a possible cause, you can start to do something about it. Knowing what you can offer in terms of flexible working practices might be extremely helpful.

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2. The whole company culture is about working long hours – can I change this?

Company culture is difficult to break. If it is a problem and if people are unhappy about this culture, then it is worth exploring the underlying reasons for the culture. What would happen if people did not put in the long hours consistently? What would happen if some people did and some chose not to?

It may simply be that the working practices need modernising, so consider the benefits of operating a more flexible working practice.

A culture in which unhappy people consistently work long hours does not automatically lead to high performance. It’s more likely to lead to

  • A high turnover of staff
  • Increased levels of absence and sickness
  • Lower productivity in the long term.

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3. I travel too much with the company and am in danger of messing up my home life – what can I do?

Recognising that you have an imbalance in your life is the first step to doing something about it. So many people just accept the status quo as a given.

The next step, though, is to take action and change something. What you change will be up to you, but you will get clues by exploring what you want, both in the short and in the long term. In other words, find out what your priorities are, both at work and at home.

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4. Everyone wants a piece of me – how can I get the balance right?

Sometimes we feel OK with being in demand, don’t we? It can seem as though we’re the fount of all knowledge and that feels powerful. However, if the statement, ‘everyone wants a piece of me’ is accompanied by a feeling of stress, then you need to be concerned.

Stress can be an indication that you need more balance in your life. In order to redress this imbalance, you need to explore where your focus is currently lying and where you’d like it to be – in all aspects of your life.

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5. Should I be feeling guilty about asking staff to stay late?

What causes this guilt?

  • Are you asking them to do something which impacts on their home life?
  • Are you giving them nothing or very little that is valuable in return (extra pay doesn’t always work for everyone)?
  • Is it because your people aren’t happy?

You might want to consider other ways that would enable the work to get done and keep the staff happy. Usually, people are happier the more control they have in their lives. It follows that if they are forced to stay late, with insufficient compensation or reward, they will not be happy.

Unhappy people = lower productivity in the long-term

There are always going to be times when you will require people to work late. But if you give staff more flexibility in the way they work generally, it’s likely they’ll be more inclined to respond willingly in times of crisis.

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6. I think it’s really important to finish everything on my to-do list. What’s wrong with that?

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. It all depends on how you feel about that compulsion and what impact it is having on the rest of your life.

In other words, it’s about considering the consequences of your actions and your beliefs. Some people might urge you or want you to think more about other things that could be important to you or other people in your life: those things that aren’t getting attention because you’re totally focused on finishing your to-do list.

What would happen if you didn’t finish the list for once?

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