After a keynote address on Work-Life Balance, two attendees approached me. They said, “Our leaders say work-life balance is important. They even encourage us to use our vacation, not work weekends and holidays, and flex as we need to. But, the people they call out for recognition and special rewards are those who work long hours, weekends and holidays, or cancel vacation plans and put forth extraordinary effort to finish a project. We don’t feel we can trust what they say because we see what they do.”
Very likely, the story these two told was one of an unconscious gap between the company’s stated values and its current reality, created and reinforced by the behavior of its leaders.
But, like most things in life, work-life balance comes with its unique set of pluses and minuses. On one hand, there’s evidence that flexible schedules are a win-win for employees and employers. Yet, the reward and incentive systems for many companies may not have caught up. While work-life balance initiatives can be aimed at driving improvements in employee retention, the tide is turning. Increasingly, today’s employers are faced with emerging generations that are, no doubt, influencing work rules and environments. More flexibility is expected – even demanded.
There are trade-offs when you strive to achieve work-life balance. For example, perceived or actual productivity may be less for people who aren’t consistently visible, accessible or willing to make the occasional personal sacrifice in favor of company goals. If you choose family time, or more me-time, over extra responsibilities that could gain you visibility and move your career ahead, others may assume that your preferred rewards come from elsewhere. If that’s true for you, you’ve made a fine choice. The key is to make mindful choices, with consideration of their potential impact – impacts that align with your goals and impacts that may run contrary.
Ultimately, however you choose to spend your time and energy should be driven by what you value and determine to be personally acceptable and honorable. You have the power to pursue the path of industry mover and shaker, or to reap the rewards greater balance, or something in between. Search yourself and decide what is right for you. Living in alignment with your self-defined truth is the greatest achievement of all.