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Work-life balance: is this an oxymoron or an achievable goal?
For working professionals, this is a complex question that doesn’t ever seem to elicit a straightforward answer. And in the aftermath – or midst, depending on your viewpoint – of a global recession, workplace pressures are more intense than ever before.
Add to these the “always on”, hi-tech and globalised characteristics of the information age, and the concept of work-life balance seems almost laughable.
As a manager, I have spent plenty of time devising a strategy that will create a great value proposition for my team – motivating them to work hard while at the same time giving them freedom and space to pursue the lives they want to lead.
This has the added benefit of allowing me to retain a talented and highly driven team.
Let me share some of the ideas we implement at my company, Avocado Vision, which you may find useful for your own employees:
Ditch the work-life myth
Work is life. Without work, life would lack meaning. The type of work people choose to create meaning differs, but no one can deny that work creates purpose, even if that purpose is solely to generate the resources to put food on the table.
Be flexible about where work takes place
Why do so many managers think that people can only be working if they are at their desks, where they can be policed at all times?
At Avo, we encourage people to decide for themselves how they would like to manage their workload. The secret is to give your team the objectives of the task, decide on the deliverables and deadlines together, then let them decide how, where and when they will make it happen.
Of course, there have to be systems and processes that support this way of working. Set up the environment then leave it up to your team. They will construct their lives in a way that suits them best, and deliver on business needs.
Make work welcoming
It is incredibly important for people occasionally to pause at their work and take in the beauty of our natural world.
It’s soul food. And feeding people’s souls is part of making work and life work together. So much restorative “stuff” happens when you can watch a little bird build its nest outside your window, and mark its progress while you work on your own project. Put some time and effort into creating a beautiful working environment. It will make a huge difference!
Foster relationships at work
Many people say they are very different at work and at home, which I have always found sad.
At Avo, we have a mantra to which we all subscribe: “who you are is enough”.
We work hard at building mature, honest and sustainable relationships at work. We understand that “life happens”’, and we’ll keep each other in the loop about any tough stuff going on with us personally. Occasionally, we’ll pick up some of the slack when a colleague is taking strain.
Research has shown that people are more likely to stay in a company when they have solid, invested relationships with their colleagues. So don’t be afraid to foster strong relationships in your team, as this will add more value than you think.
Engage the whole person
In today’s working environment, I believe the role of managers is essentially about engaging the whole person.
As work and life become more accepted as one and the same, we have to get better at enabling people to live at work. It will not be easy – at first – to make that shift, but challenge yourself to create a working space that engages employees in their “wholeness”.
After all, work is life is work.
l Jules Newton is the CEO of Avocado Vision. 011 614 0206, www.avovision.co.za