Let’s create cultures that support work/life integration, not work/life separation
20th February 2023
How long have we been talking about work/life balance? It’s a conversation that long pre-dates Covid-19. With more employees than ever now working from home and reluctant to return to the office full-time, the debate rages around how best to compartmentalise our lives, particularly now that office and home are frequently the same place.
As remote work shows no signs of losing its popularity, organisations should start looking at how to create cultures that integrate, rather than separate, working and personal lives.
There are a few key areas where the personal and professional often get ring fenced, but there are options in terms of the ways in which teams and individuals can make space for the two to work together.
Colleagues and family
Both need time and commitment to thrive. Neither should be compromised in favour of the other. In the same way that teams would not appreciate a colleague taking personal calls that interrupt meetings, equally friends and family don’t like feeling they’re playing second fiddle to work.
Being transparent about personal and work commitments is critical, to make sure that colleagues, friends, and family understand and are respectful of someone’s responsibilities and commitments across the personal and professional spectrum.
Accommodating these can help reduce anxiety and stress, because people don’t have to feel that they have to choose one side or the other, of the metaphorical work/life fence.
The human brain needs time-out. When you give your brain a breather, you allow space to solve problems and come up with new ideas.
Time away from the office to do something different opens the mind and is a great way to process any concerns or challenges you may be facing.
If you’re constantly working, it can be very difficult to take a step back and take a more dispassionate and objective look at where you are and what you need to do.
But be careful not to confuse multi-tasking with wellbeing. Listening to an All Hands call while you do the washing up is not a healthy way to create work-life integration! You’ll be amazed how much more you take in when you’re not trying to do a million things through a meeting. Equally, friends and family get antsy (and rightly so) when you’re checking work messages, rather than listening. Let go of everything else, focus on one thing at a time.
We are in a new era of leadership. In the hybrid world, leaders need to create a culture built around shared values, where teams are trusted to give their best and can flourish no matter where, when, and how they work. That means being sensitive and supportive of all the different home environments, time zones and challenges – whether technical or domestic – that make up today’s smorgasbord of working arrangements.
In a virtual team, a leader only knows what a colleague chooses to show them. They won’t know if a someone’s child is ill, or they have a yoga class later that morning, or the dog’s just been sick on the carpet. That’s OK. What matters is that they make time to get to know their team on a personal level and empower individuals by respecting both their home and work commitments, and trusting them to manage both without fear, judgement, or pressure.
Across the globe, we face significant and concerning change, and navigating through that change can feel overwhelming.
Against this backdrop, people are often struggling to bring their work/life commitments into balance. It’s time for organisations to ask themselves “Are we truly developing cultures that support teams to manage their many responsibilities, at work and at home?”
Rather than pitting the two against one another, with trust, transparency and communication, it is possible to make space for work life and personal life to integrate, rather than separate.
About the author
Written By Louisa Houghton, Story Teller/Writer/Optimist. Experienced Communications Leader
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