Work-Life Balance is a common phenomena that I hear many people seeking these days. I prefer the term Work-Life Integration because “balance” is a relative, dynamic term. We may not be able to have the scales perfectly tipped in all areas of our life – time for ourselves, our family, our community on top of a demanding career – every single day, week or month.
This past Tuesday morning, I had just sat down at my computer, having blocked time outside of client projects and marketing efforts, to sit down and write. AAH! I was so looking forward to some quiet, dedicated focus time to collect my thoughts. No sooner than my butt was warm in the seat did I get a call from the nurse at my daughter’s school. She fell and hurt her ankle and was in a lot of pain. It wasn’t even 9 am! I picked her up and we spent a half a day between the doctor’s office and the radiologist – diagnosis – bad sprain, and crutches for a week.
Well the timing was perfect as I was supposed to be having lunch with a client an hour away. Fortunately, she cancelled early that morning so I was in a position to pick up my daughter. Instead of cursing the cancellation and the situation with my daughter as ruining all my plans, I saw it as a rare opportunity during the weekday to spend some quality time with her – we laughed together when the nurse practitioner was considering a diagnosis of some rare disease that effects teenagers heels’ when they are growing. No, it didn’t hurt before her fall – it was just an injury! I was also happy to hear that, the reason my daughter injured her ankle is because she was so happy she was skipping down the stairs (not the best idea) and decided to just skip a couple of steps. Any parent of a 12 year old girl navigating puberty bursting is happy to know their child is happy – in school no less! Our connection helped keep things in perspective and by the time I did get back to work, my ideas had been furthered or shaped differently due to the break. Back burner thinking is the genesis of many a break-through idea.
My daughter came back home, read on the couch while I typed away on the computer. Fortunately I have my own business which gives me some flexibility to work when and where I want. However, when I was at IBM and GE I also had some flexibility in my roles there as well. This is a privilege that did not exist as recently as 15-20 years ago. And one that the current generations early-in-career or entering the workforce (Gens X, Y and Millenium), now insist upon. The labor shortage predicted in 2012 will require more employers to be open and creative with different kinds of arrangements.
What struck me about the pediatricians office at 10:00 on a Tuesday morning is that it was quite busy and not all with sick children – and probably 80% of the parents were fathers! YES, MEN JUGGLING BABIES AND BLACKBERRYS. Some looked like they were either very mellow or stay at home dads. Others, were working away on their Blackberrys or talking into their cell phones. In all cases, they seem to be attentive to, and know their children. I can assure you, when I was growing up, this would have been a VERY rare sight.
So, Work-Life Integration is important to, and effects MEN as well as women, and not just those who are married. It’s about having the opportunity to do creative, high impact work and have a life. It may be about taking time out in the workday to care for a sick child, attend a baseball game or meet the cable guy – and either working through lunch or doing work after dinner or taking a break that rejuvenates you with great gusto toward your work. How we think about time and space – what we get done where and when – needs to change to meet the complex needs and pace of life today. How do you limit your thoughts of what is possible with yourself or your employees? How do you integrate your life to create work that is relaxed and productive versus frenetic and on-the-fringe of burn-out?
Copyright 2009 Sage Leadership Strategies, LLC www.sagelead.com