WORK LIFE BALANCE?

Are you juggling competing demands and making tradeoffs with your time? Are you experiencing the push and pull between family responsibilities and work? Are you often preoccupied with work while not working? Does your office go home with you? Do you find it difficult to give your spouse/family the same attention you give your job? If you’ve answered, ‘yes’ to any of these questions then you may have work life balance issues to contend with. According to a 2003 research quarterly of The Society for Human Resources Management Professionals (SHRM), the term “work life balance”, was first coined in 1986, although its usage in everyday language was sporadic for a number of years. It has been defined in some quarters as, “A state of equilibrium in which the demands of both a person’s job and personal life are equal.” While this suggests that a state of equilibrium is achieved between the demands of a person’s job and his personal life, the reality is that people (and indeed organizations) have to deal with the concept and what it entails from (slightly) different angles, since an, “all -things-being –equal utopian state”, may not give a complete picture (as balance, is something we never fully perfect or completely attain). If you think of a tightrope walker - who is never balanced in the sense of being still or stationary, yet is always balancing, gradually becoming better and more comfortable in his balance, you will obtain a clearer picture of what the work – life balance concept is all about

Thus, while the employee faces the dilemma of managing work obligations and personal/ family responsibilities; the employer may be challenged by the creation of a supportive company culture which enables employees focus on their jobs while at work without jeopardizing the time required to handle personal/ family concerns. According to Jim Bird, a researcher on the subject;” work life balance does not mean an equal balance (i.e. trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each of our professional and personal activities, it is more defined by “who you are!, your values and priorities” Your best individual work life balance will vary over time; often on a daily basis. The right balance for you today will probably be different for you tomorrow. The right balance for you when you are single will be different when you get married, and even more different when you start having children and taking care of the elderly. Bird said it so well when he said, “there is no perfect, one-size fits all balance you should be striving for”. Life is more or less a balancing act, with you in constant search of a moving fulcrum. Executive Coach, David Zelman said, “Balance per se isn’t a goal. It is an afterthought, a way of describing an outcome. Seeking balance is futile because it’s an intangible and, so, impossible to measure. Better to set concrete objectives in areas important to you and plan concrete paths to each goal. Take your life for what it is – a rich and varied story defined by ever – changing circumstances and priorities (life is not just the passing of time but is a collection of experiences). Zelman advises considering life and career as a portfolio. In each chapter, we have different responsibilities and priorities: children, home, travel, aging relatives. We all face a corresponding variety of roles and opportunities on the job: a big project, moving up the managerial hierarchy, a top leadership role etc. Balance then becomes a lifelong quest – balancing among chapters rather than within each chapter.

Thus, there will be times when you have to devote 80% of your time to work, and other times when you must do the same for your family. The tough part is recognizing which chapter of your life demands the most attention per time and recognizing them for what they are – temporary episodes, phases which make up a coherent and satisfying whole.

Bringing it closer home, the last few years has seen an upward trend in the number of highly qualified men and women dropping out of mainstream careers due to work life imbalance. (This is particularly true of the Banking sector) a further analysis shows the feminine gender to be more affected by the challenges of work-life balance. A 2005 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Lee, state that nearly four in ten highly qualified women (37%) report that they have left work voluntarily at some point in their careers. Among women who have children, that statistic rises to 43%. This means that childbirth is still a major barrier to women’s career progression. A 2007 HBR case commentary written by Rebecca Matthias (in response to a case study written by Sharman Esarey & Arno haslberger) stated that a smart, ambitious woman of child bearing age has three choices. Choice number one is to forgo motherhood, follow her dream, and attain a lofty position; in so doing, she will always wonder what life would have been like had she had children. Choice number two is to skip a career, become a mother, and always wonder what she might have attained in the business world. Choice

number three is to do a half-baked job of both (the obvious choice for most working women). It goes without saying that we will always have a juxtaposition of opportunities and responsibilities to contend with – one must therefore take ownership and accountability for balancing work while meeting personal and family obligations. THE WAY OUT First, (with the help of a mentor or trusted friend), determine your values (rank them in order of importance); and then outline your roles, responsibilities and relationships. List your present opportunities, responsibilities and family obligations. Set priorities (based on your values, relationships, roles and responsibilities). Then decide where you have to make temporary tradeoffs (make sure you keep a perspective on future possibilities. Stephen Covey said, "Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant." "Work to live. Don't live to work." In conclusion, defining what is important is the challenge that we face personally. We need to be careful not to confuse matters perceived as urgent with matters that are deemed truly important. Don't let the "noise of urgency create the illusion of importance." Food for Thought: If you knew you had only one day to live, what is the ONE most important thing you would do differently? Kay Olufemi-Ayoola has been a practicing Career Development expert and Coach for over 5years; he has inspired thousands to reach personal and professional fulfillment and transform their careers. Using individual and group coaching, conducting hands-on workshops and

seminars and consulting with organizations , he coaches his clients to advance up the corporate ladder quickly, and love the job they have or land their dream job. Kay’s active engagement in Human Resources and Career Development began in the mid 1990’s as an undergraduate conducting Personal Achievement Success Seminars (P.A.S.S) and Career Talks, which were aimed at helping students maximize their potentials regardless of prevailing obstacles in their environment. He has extensive work experiences from various Consulting firms and was Head, Human Resources Vigeo Oil & Gas Limited, and Chief Operating Officer, After School Graduate Development Centre before his appointment as Head, Human Resources & Administration, Spring Life Assurance Plc (a subsidiary of Bank PHB). Kay is the founder and Coordinator of Daystar Christian Centre’s Career Development Unit – CareerPlus+ (started in 2004). He is a frequent speaker at seminars conferences and has published well over 60+ articles on Career Development, Personal Branding, Career Change & Transitions and Graduate Employability to date. He is the co-founder &

Executive toolkit: Peak Performance Coaches.
Partner of . He can be reached at: 08037207606; olufemikay@yahoo.com and careerpluseries@yahoogroups.com.

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