by Cali Williams Yost
There’s only so much an organization can do to help employees with their work/life balance. Some of it has to be up to them. Your organization can allow flexibility in how the work gets done, but in the end, it’s up to each individual employee to figure out how to use that flexibility.
As flextime and flex-place have taken hold in organizations, employees are more responsible—not less—for thoughtfully and deliberately putting up boundaries between work and the other parts of their lives. They have to determine for themselves how their wellness, personal relationships, personal lives, finances, job skills, networking and the other pieces of their days and their lives fit into or around their work time.
What I’ve discovered in my research is that most of us don’t know how to figure that out. It’s a modern skill set that we all need, but few of us have. We’re still waiting for someone to tell us what to do.
A foundation of well-being and order
As an HR professional, you’re in a position to partner with employees when it comes to work/life balance. You can offer flexible options for when and where employees work. You can remind them of the benefits your organization has to help them handle personal responsibilities—benefits such as child care, elder care and tuition assistance.
And you can teach them how to take advantage of those benefits in a way that helps them get their work done without sacrificing their personal lives.
I have studied the habits of the rare people I consider to be work/life “naturals.” They seem to intuitively and seamlessly fit their work and their personal life together. They’re not overwhelmed by the competing demands. Instead, they are able to harness them to build their own foundation of well-being and order.
5 steps toward better balance
These naturals follow five simple steps that you can help your employees learn:
- They believe they have to manage their own, everyday work/life balance. They don’t wait for someone else to tell them what to do.
- They keep a single calendar that combines personal and work to-dos. They see every day as a complete picture, and they consider both professional and personal obligations before making a commitment on either side.
- They constantly reflect, and they schedule time for reflection into their week. They think about what they want, what’s missing, what they’d like to do less of or more of. They make time to stay in touch with themselves.
- They take steps to remedy imbalance—one step at a time. When they see a gap between what they want to do and what they’re actually doing, they fix it. If they’re neglecting their friends, they schedule lunch. If they’re worried about whether they have enough insurance, they make an appointment with an agent. They’re flexible enough to fit those things into their schedules.
- They celebrate their successes. They don’t obsess about what they didn’t get done in a week. They congratulate themselves for what they did.
Every single employee of every single company needs to know how to take these kinds of baseline actions to manage competing work and personal demands.
The lesson: How to manage competing demands
Your organization can help. Teach employees this modern skill—how to manage these competing demands that lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed, unhealthy and unproductive. Teach them how to get their work done and manage their lives so they accomplish what they want. That will help your organization accomplish what it needs to get done.
Teach them how to make the case for flextime or telework or whatever accommodation they need. Teach them that, although you offer work/life benefits and flex, it’s up to them to reach out and capture it in a way that is thoughtful about what they need and what the company needs from them.
Cali Williams Yost is CEO of the work/life flexibility strategy firm Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit. She is author of the just-released Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. Contact her at (973) 377-6965.
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