I have to say that the expression “work life balance” does not convince me at all. What is it about work vs. life? as far as I know, we only have one life. Of course if we look at our frenzy rhythm nowadays and the fact that we spend a lot of hours working, we need to find a kind of balance. Here are 10 personal thoughts about this challenge.
1. Work life balance is not only a female topic. Whoever desires to live a fulfilled life (with or without kids) will be interested in finding a balance. Within a couple, it is a shared responsibility (how do you negotiate that with your partner by the way?) and we are all concerned as the new generations values have totally changed their relationship to work.
2. Respecting work hours should not be synonymous of “Couldn’t Care less attitude”. It should rhyme with target settings, productivity and a proactive/results oriented attitude. Yes, of course, reducing the time spent working is key to make us happier. And let’s not fool ourselves. I know many women who are working part time, which life has turned into a nightmare as they don’t have one minute to breath. You can do what you want with your time if you meet your objectives. New technologies enable us to connect. So, if I go out early to do something for me (whatever it is), the probability that I will have to connect “outside of the standard working hours” is quite high. No need to mention the importance of results and a proactive attitude.
3. Laws are helpful but not sufficient: each individual needs to be brave enough to negotiate and fight for his/her own needs. It is our choice to listen only to negative stories about people failing at finding work life balance. We should also be open to the fact that the number of successful cases are increasing. What did these persons who managed it, do to benefit from a “special treat” whilst being seen as true professionals in their sector? What should You do at your level to negociate with your manager/company a way of working that suits you? Are you ready to take a risk? Because if we only wait for others to do it for us, we won’t make it or at least it will be too slow.
4. Life balance also means adapting our educational systems, school time tables, school holidays and the way we actually live and trust the others. It is about changing minds and cultures, working on coeducating our children, adapting school times and holidays to our life so that everything works easier. How to cope with kids having 2 months of holidays in Summer? How for managers to trust their employees working remotely?
5. Being freelance, entrepreneur or working from home does not mean that your work life balance is ideal. Stop fooling yourself! If you quit your job to set up your business, work life balance can be at stake because suddenly your home is your work and your work is your home and not everyone is good at it. The same applies to home working in case of remote management.
6. Despite all types of regulations, it will always be a highly personal topic. We all have a singular view on what we want to balance in our life. We first need to know our priorities and then fight for them. This is obviously linked to point 3.
7. A person with a so called Work life balance does not have special powers and won’t reach everything. It is tough to find THE balance, it means handling many topics at the same time, and I am not sure if it does not mean again adding pressure and guilt on us. I mean, if I don’t reach Work life balance (meaning managing everything in my life), does that mean I am useless?
8. Being pregnant is not an illness. Our responsibility as Women is to demonstrate it. Of course, when we don’t suffer any real health problems during our pregnancy.
9. Reaching work life balance is easier once you are at a top level job within your Company because they know your value. As Sheryl Sandberg states clearly in Lean In, women tend to put themselves limits even before having kids. Reaching high level positions in companies means they know your value, they trust your performance and will be more flexible in arranging the way you work. It is all also about educating your environment making them respect your agenda for example.
10. At the end of the day, Life balance is about time management and respecting others and their needs. If your aim is life balance, you need to prepare to train your discipline, your influencing and negotiation skills, saying No, and above all, accept that you will reach everything but not necessarily at the same time. It is also about understanding each person’s needs.