“I don’t believe in work-life balance; I believe in work-life integration,” a senior global advertising agency executive once said.
The comment in 2010 came as other senior executives and I worked on a global, high-profile project. It was uttered by a charismatic executive global leader in our organisation.
I recall smiling because the thought resonated with me and reflected how I unconsciously seemed to have approached life.
Today, we find ourselves, both leadership and staff, struggling to figure the “new normal”.
Beyond being an individual right, exercising some measure of control and setting boundaries is a primordial necessity for many people around the world.
So, how can they achieve an equilibrium that enables them to deliver on their professional and personal obligations, while enabling them to be reasonably fulfilled?
The answer probably varies widely, depending on country development, cultural norms, local regulation, type of industry, corporate governance, personal choices and behaviours and other considerations.
But for those desiring to take charge of how they satisfactorily allot their time, there are some measures they can be proactive about.
Just like it is possible to become fit, achieving work-life balance is also possible, but it requires a conscious effort and persistence.
Keep in mind that this is not a push-button thing, rather a personal journey, meaning that the specific strategies are likely to vary from one individual to another.
Still, here are seven strategies that professionals might want to consider:
1. Set clear boundaries
Those who tend to succeed in creating a work-life balance typically set clear boundaries between work and personal life.
One executive I worked with was very clear that they wouldn’t check their work email during the weekend and weren’t prepared to work past a certain hour on certain evenings.
2. Prioritise and delegate
I am reminded of the expression, “Life ends, but work doesn’t”. As such, it is wise to prioritise your tasks and focus on the important stuff.
To achieve balance, this means delegating when possible and saying "no" to either additional work or unnecessary pressure created by chaos and lack of discipline.
3. Use technology wisely
Technology is a double-edged sword and has brought many benefits, while opening a Pandora’s box.
Technology has provided us with flexibility and enabled us to untether ourselves from our work desk. The price to pay has been a blurring of the lines between work and personal life.
This requires mindfulness and raising awareness of one’s own behaviour, setting rules and sticking to them.
4. Set personal, purposeful goals
Time is an empty vessel, it needs to be filled and used mindfully.
Unless we have personal interests, passions and hobbies that we enjoy pursuing, the chances are we haven’t built sufficient defences and, often, work pressure is likely to breach personal barriers.
5. Establish remote work guidelines
One of the benefits of a work-from-the-office era is the clear segregation between where work happened and where life started.
However, now that the two often must coexist and work often takes place at home, achieving balance requires extra effort in the guise of having a dedicated working place and pursuing a routine that separates work from home.
6. Communicate your needs with your team
No individual is an island unto themselves, and what is true of life is also true of work.
It is important to share your work-life balance needs with your employer and team so that you are all on the same page.
A growing number of companies are becoming more accommodating of employee concerns and their desire to have more balanced lives.
7. Set up a support network
Friends, family and colleagues have a role to play in aiding and providing emotional support when necessary.
We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge involved in the required behavioural change to create a work-life balance, especially if it is a relatively new concept in your organisation or only paid lip service.
A support network helps in ensuring you stay on the path.
Achieving a satisfactory work-life balance, particularly in cultures where such a notion is foreign or might face resistance, is a journey and will require ongoing attention.
It is important to remember that it may not always be perfect and what works for one person may not work for another.
This is a personal engagement and one needs to find the equilibrium and balance that work best for them.
Ultimately, work-life balance can be achieved. This is already happening in some organisations and cultures; in others, it may require work.
We must remember that to establish a healthy equilibrium, we have a role and a responsibility. Recognise that we are each the chief executive of our own lives.
Kamal Dimachkie is managing partner of leadership change enabler Coach Inc