Life Balance – by Liz Watt

The term ‘work-life balance’ has become one of those slightly cringey management speak phrases (‘think out of the box’ ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’) that we have a bit of a love/hate relationship with. We hear it so often that it can seem trite and meaningless.

However, setting aside its somewhat hackneyed use for one moment, it is actually an important concept to think about, especially in our increasingly 24/7 work life. Maybe we just need to re-frame the concept a little.

From my own experience, I have long had to accept that I cannot package my ‘work’ and ‘home’ life into neat bundles and turn off the switch as I move from one to the other. As in many things, I recognise I have no ‘off’ button! And so inevitably one seeps into the other, and I will frequently be working at night or at the weekend, and thinking about ideas or issues at all times of the day and night. But I have also reached the stage where I (try not) to feel guilty about taking time out from the working day to do something domestic, or working from home on occasion. I actually wrote this while taking an extended holiday in Spain, where I combined time off with some specific work projects.

And clearly I am not alone. I receive many e-mails from business associates at weird and wonderful hours and have conversations with colleagues and friends who are open about the struggle to balance the many demands on their time and attention.

In my coaching practice, I am often party to the very real difficulties that trying to orchestrate a balance can create and the genuine heartache that can ensue when people feel they are getting it ‘wrong’ or trying to do too much and succeeding at nothing. Putting pressure on ourselves to be perfect in this regard is a real issue.

And it is apparent that well intentioned agile working strategies are frequently ineffective or not taken up by employees. The way in which businesses successfully implement agile working or working from home policies can vary wildly, and there can still be a reluctance for men and women to take advantage of them, especially if, for example, they are on the cusp of promotion. There is a sense that they must be visible at all times and show no vulnerability. People are often reluctant to ask for flexible working in case this is perceived as being less that 100% committed to the business and their career.

Maybe we need to pause, stop wrestling with creating a work/life balance and instead, invest this energy in creating a more realistic approach to life in general that enables us to fit together all the pieces of our own life jigsaw in a way that works for us a individuals, rather than forcing the pieces to fit in such a way that is inauthentic and unworkable.

To achieve this of course is easier said than done! It means creating a business culture where corporate and personal strategies are aligned, where there is clarity between the two, and where both sides feel they can achieve their objectives by working together. A culture of co-operation and communication is essential in this regard. And it means accepting that not everyone one wants to reach the highest levels of an organisation, but are still valued for doing a great job. So it means not making assumptions about what people want from their work and career, but actually talking to them, and working out a strategy that works for both parties.

Utopia? Maybe! But the best things are always achieved by starting with a high ideal and then working out  a practical pathway to get there. And as ever, the best place to start is by communicating. Open dialogue, without fear of judgement or recrimination – wouldn’t that be a great place to start?

If you would like some input into how you might achieve a better life balance, or you would like to implement strategies for your team or business and need a hand getting started, please contact me for an initial consultation :


Life Balance

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