Buzz words are all around us. One of my least favorites is “work/life balance”. You may be wondering why I have a problem with work/life balance (WLB). Well, I don’t. I want balance in my life. It’s just that each of us have our own definition of WLB. If you are married, single, have kids, don’t have kids, work from home, work outside of the home, all of these are factors that influence work life balance and how we as individuals define it for ourselves.
When I’m consulting or even interviewing with a company and they state one of their benefits as, “work/life balance”, I always ask them to define it for me. So far, no one has successfully talked about my WLB, it’s always some pablum.
We as women can also benefit by defining what’s really important to us as individuals. It’s not selfish, it’s empowering. One way to do this is to make a list (physical or mental) of what’s important to us and to rank each item.
Once you’ve created your list, ask yourself if your work environment supports your life requirements. If it does – fantastic, you’ve actually achieved the holy grail! If not, it’s a great conversation starter with your manager. To prepare for your conversation, have your list ready as well as options that you’ve identified to address the gaps in the balance (more opportunities to work from home, no more working on the weekends, flexible work hours to avoid traffic, drop off kids or attend events and then work from home after family events, etc.). You might also want to bring any stated company policies around anything that talks about WLB.
When you open the conversation with your manager, be positive. Start with something like, I love what I’m doing, and I’m hoping to improve my performance and reduce my stress by applying the principles of WLB to me and my role, specifically. I find that there are times I have missed “x” because of work and I’d appreciate having the opportunity to attend “x” in the future. To that endeavor, I’d like to propose “x” (or a few changes)… A supportive manager and company culture should be able to flex and meet your needs.
Over the years these priorities will most likely shift as we become partnered with someone (or unpartnered), possibility add children to our lives and see those children grow up and move out. In addition to the family changes our professional life changes as well. When we start out there are fewer work responsibilities, once you leave for the day you’re done until the next day. Your job can change and grow overtime until you’re bringing work home with you to meet the added responsibilities. No matter what changes happen to your life, it’s important to keep an eye on your needs and ensure that you’re communicating them to your workplace.
The more that technology continues to evolve the workplace, the more flexibility we’ll need to be to execute our job requirements and not lose our minds in the process. Keep your needs in the forefront of your mind and keep communicate them! Only you can empower yourself to ensure that you’re happy in both your work and your life!
– Katharine Conroy (1969-2018)
Katharine wrote this blog for me last year and I decided to publish it on her would be 50th birthday. My heart goes out to her family and friends. I miss you, Kat. Will think of you always.