Last week I did an Ignite talk at #cipdnap17 on the subject of Work Life Balance and how I go about creating A Perfect Day. Given that it is, by coincidence, Go Home On Time Day on 21 June, the timing seems apt to expand on this.
I’m grateful to Gemma Dale for publishing her own excellent blog on this subject which made me think about writing this one.
Read hers, then come straight back here. I’ll wait.
My Ignite talk was again delivered as a rhyme, and I really enjoyed doing it. I drew some inspiration not just for the talk but for my whole approach to work life balance from Nigel Marsh’s excellent TED talk on the subject some years ago.
My talk was filmed and you can watch it here if you like.
In it, I’m making, in a fairly haphazard way, a few key points which I’ll expand on here.
1. That there is something that approximates a perfect day for everyone, but it is a rare and unusual thing. Too often we don’t make efforts to create it, as we are too busy or (worse) don’t realise what we need or (even worse) do realise but do nothing about it. My point was that by making some very small adjustments to your day, and helping others to do the same, our organisations and our families can reap huge rewards.
2. In HR we could take a leading role in educating managers and employees on the benefits of flexibility. However this doesn’t often seem to happen, and even when leading by example I’ve encountered suspicion and mistrust. But our ability to influence is there and should be used.
3. The demands of modern family life are often largely incompatible with the demands of the traditional working day and traditional organisation. So one of these sets of demands has to change, and the only one we in HR can realistically influence on behalf of others is the latter. But again by leading by example we can show people how to manage the demands of both.
4. Organisations who tell their staff how to work, how to dress, when to take lunch and for how long, what hours to work etc are going about it all in the wrong way. They can’t unlock the engagement and discretionary effort they want from their staff unless they change. Too many organisations judge people by how many hours they are sat at their desk, and not by the quality of output they deliver. If someone wants to take an hour or so off to do the school run and help their kids with their homework, and then will log on late at night and catch up, does it really matter as long as their work is done?
5. Working in the evening or at weekends is a personal choice and not one that should be encouraged or expected by organisations. Too many see emails sent late at night or at weekends as a sign of being some kind of workplace hero, as working harder or more than someone else. If you want to do it, fine – but set your emails to send first thing in the morning so you don’t impose your lifestyle and working patterns on others.
6. You are never too busy to spend time building working and family relationships and a coffee catch-up with someone is time well spent no matter what else you need to be doing. Telling someone you’re too busy to grab a coffee says less about your workload and more about you as a human being.
So if it’s Go Home On Time Day, I suppose this will mean different things to different people.
And that’s ok, because everyone’s perfect day is different. Everyone’s perception of work life balance is also different.
But in organisations, as HR professionals, we need to be encouraging people to explore what it means for them. To adopt a trial and error approach and, as I’ve mentioned before, present successive drafts of themselves.
We shouldn’t judge anyone for trying to get themselves balanced.
Till next time.
PS in other news, I’ve recently built a large climbing frame. I am reminded why I hate DIY and also how poor I am at it. I would happily outsource all of this if I could. And I have a new shed to build next…