Help

There are currently no Help notes in this section.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

My CLP Account      Contact Us      

Our Blog

Work-Life: Balance or Conflict?

May 15 2017 - by Carole Houlihan, CLP's Gender & Diversity Specialist

The recent video of Professor Kelly in South Korea attempting to conduct an interview for BBC from his home office when his children bounced into the room, went viral (over 20 million hits) for a reason.

Many of us could relate to his attempt to work from home and sympathise with his struggles to appear professional in the face of adversity (and hilarity).  As technology allows us to work from anywhere and requires attention 24/7, it also increasingly encroaches on family and other commitments.

Recently I heard an interview with an academic specializing in family issues who was living the reality of life with a young child.  Her (relatively brief) experience led her to declare: There is no such thing as work-life balance, there is only work-life conflict!

This got me thinking again about the hotly debated topic of the work-life nexus (also called work-life design, work-life freedom, and work-life see-saw). It is an issue everyone is struggling to solve in their own lives.  

Everyone who is successful - CEOs, politicians and media personalities - is asked for their insights on how they have handled or juggled their various commitments. Some reflections  include:

Recognize that everyone is in a different phase of life, has different challenges, and needs the freedom to handle those obligations.

Lack of balance happens when people feel guilty about taking time to meet their out-of-work commitments. It requires flexibility, trust, and respect in your work relationships.

There are only so many ways to slice the pie. Work-life balance means making decisions around where, who, and what you’re going to sacrifice, because you can’t do it all.

When it comes to work-life balance, “having it all” doesn’t mean having it all, all at once.

It seems that solutions vary greatly based on individual personalities, career aspirations, values, stage of life, national and work-place culture and the philosophies in the zeitgeist. But the challenge remains for all of us.

Share your experiences:

What has worked for you in your work-life relationship?

What has worked for you as a supervisor in supporting your staff?

Leave a comment

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

Esther Inniss - Reply

 Work life balance can indeed be best described as work life conflict. Every day we make choices ... on most occasions, choices in favour of the  employer. As Supervisors and Managers, we even expect that staff will naturally put us (the organisation, the work) first. After all, we tell ourselves, "this is their bread and butter", "this is their ONLY means of livelihood", "how will they be able to take care of their families without this". Sooo, we demand their loyalty and tell them that they have to have respect for their jobs and re-order their lives to accommodate their work schedule. But ... is this fair to them? Does this motivate them to really produce?

Recently one of my staff members (middle manager) had a family emergency. She came to my office and I could tell something was wrong. She had just returned from a week's leave and everyone was expecting her to jump in and ease the workload that had piled up in her absence. Prior to her proceeding on this week's leave, she appeared distracted and her productivity levels started to dip - she was generally an excellent officer so it was noticable. When the request came for a week's personal leave we therefore did not hesitate to grant it.

However, upon her return to work it was clear that her personal situation had not improved. As she approached me, almost in tears, I of course asked how we could help ... what she needed right now etc. She shared a lot with me and I suggested that she may need to take some additional time off (I was thinking a couple of days). She perked up and thanked me profusely. Later that day, I got an application for two (2) months leave, starting immediately. This request almost floored me as I knew how much load she usually carried. I clearly remember saying "Awww" when it came to my desk. However, I knew that I had to grant it. I closed my eyes and approved it, knowing the repercussions. Boy, was it painful to do, but I knew that it was necessary for her to be able to deal with her family emergency. She returned to work after this looong period, much better and very grateful. Her presence was immediately felt ... she jumped back in and continued to give the 150% we had all grown to expect from her. We all breathed a sigh of relief - the office was back to normal.

As Managers we have at times (more often that we actually do) to put our staff needs first. They need to feel that we care and that we do not see them just as productivity mills. We must remember that their work output can only be as good as their internal frame of mind. But ... its still a difficult ask, a work in progress for me.

 

Carole Houlihan - Reply

Esther,

Thank  you for sharing your experience as a sympathic (and challenged!) supervisor. You highlighted the  conflicts and  pressures that  leaders face to ensure that staff are productive and also to be responsive to staff's needs and the pressures they face from home, family and commitments ourside of work.  

I am glad that things worked out for your staff member, and sincerely thank you for your honesty in recounting  your  thoughts for the benefit of the group. 

Carole 

 

Penny L - Reply

A very spontaneous video from Professor Kelly ,which demonstrates the struggles faced by many persons as we try to achieve that delicate balance, between work /family life .

Some strategies that have worked for me include ensuring that you establish a support structure at both bases-work/home. These persons will be your gatekeepers, as it relates to your success/ challenges with work life balance.

Keep communication lines open with both team and family members. I also try to  set achievable limits as it relates to work assignments at the team and personal level. Avoid overstretching yourself, which could possibly lead to burnout and poor work performance.  Avoid procrastination by having a to-do list when possible.  

Make a committment to your personal health and well being , and encourage team and family members to do the same. Implement a buddy system to keep you motivated, as you focus on a healthier lifestyle. This will help you on your journey to being a better manager and person.

Another critical factor is prioritising of tasks, and improving time management skills. Know your stressors, and actively try to eliminate them. Listen to and understand the expectations of family/team members, and carve out quality time to spend with family. Take time to enjoy the other aspects of your life.

Achieving work life balance requires constant committment and a daily approach to ensure that individual /family and work expectations can be realised.   

 

Penny L - Reply

A very spontaneous video from Professor Kelly ,which demonstrates the struggles faced by many persons as we try to achieve that delicate balance, between work /family life .

Some strategies that have worked for me include ensuring that you establish a support structure at both bases-work/home. These persons will be your gatekeepers, as it relates to your success/ challenges with work life balance.

Keep communication lines open with both team and family members. I also try to  set achievable limits as it relates to work assignments at the team and personal level. Avoid overstretching yourself, which could possibly lead to burnout and poor work performance.  Avoid procrastination by having a to-do list when possible.  

Make a committment to your personal health and well being , and encourage team and family members to do the same. Implement a buddy system to keep you motivated, as you focus on a healthier lifestyle. This will help you on your journey to being a better manager and person.

Another critical factor is prioritising of tasks, and improving time management skills. Know your stressors, and actively try to eliminate them. Listen to and understand the expectations of family/team members, and carve out quality time to spend with family. Take time to enjoy the other aspects of your life.

Achieving work life balance requires constant committment and a daily approach to ensure that individual /family and work expectations can be realised.   

 

Annette - Reply

The higher the level of responsibility, the more difficult it becomes to create that balance needed. As leaders, we are in demand constantly by staff who expect that every call, email, request and whatever else is sent our way must be answered. We are expected to be on top of things 24/7 and thus the critical need to separate the issues or as we say in this case  - balance the office with home obligations. This is more difficult when office is at home. 

It therefore requires a very strong will to determine and maintain that cut off time - moving from the  desk to the kitchen or from the desk to pick up the kids from school. I recognize that to strike this balance, the practice must be established at the beginning of one's career or very early into it. Otherwise, it will be a serious task to create that balance.

Carole Houlihan - Reply

Thank you,  Annette and Penny L, for your comments. You both emphasize the need to take control of your work life, and your life, so that you have choices about how, when and how much you work. Penny makes a good point about  building support systems at both home and work. Annette stresses the importance of setting patterns  and developing strategies early in your career.