Two very different approaches can help improve your work-life balance, says our talent doctor Rob Yeung; plus, how to ace the office party – whatever your agenda
This article was first published in the November/December 2016 international edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
What’s your work-life balance like? Many people feel that their work impinges too heavily upon their lives. But research suggests two wildly different strategies for creating a better relationship with your work.
First, you could try to create a clearer separation between the two. For example, researcher Brandon Smit at Ball State University in the US taught employees to spend a few minutes at the end of each day writing down plans for where, when and how they would tackle incomplete goals the next day. After monitoring hundreds of employees, he found that these employees reported being able to better detach themselves from their work than other employees.
Your second option may be to integrate work and life more fully. This option may be preferable for many; my observation from working with high achievers is that the very concept of work-life balance presumes that you toil mainly to earn money to live off once you have finished work. The idea of a work-life balance implies that work is bad and life is good – and that you should minimise the impact of the first to enjoy the latter.
I am coaching an entrepreneur who sold a business for over £10m shortly after he turned 50. After the sale, he initially decided to take a few years to travel and enjoy life. But within 12 months, he had started a new venture, hiring employees and raising capital. Creating a product and developing a business around it is fun for him. Working is part of his identity.
The majority of the most successful people I encounter find genuine joy in their work. That doesn’t mean they love every moment, but for the most part they love great chunks of what they do.
So rather than thinking about work-life balance in terms of separating the two, perhaps blend, mix and integrate them. Find ways to make your work more like the life you already enjoy.
What do you find rewarding, absorbing or engaging? Perhaps you want to spend more time with customers or do the opposite and have more time for thinking or planning. Maybe you want to move away from the numbers to get more involved in business strategy, marketing, advising and training colleagues, or something else entirely.
Then make a plan and implement it. Volunteer for the kinds of projects you like. Go on courses to boost the skills that will allow you to do more of what you enjoy. Seek mentors and coaches to help you change the nature your role. Consider switching employers: find a culture or role that is more receptive to your needs.
In summary, you do not have to let your work dominate your life. Either choose to separate them more forcefully or integrate your life more fully into your work. You will be grateful for whatever change you make.
Dr Rob Yeung is an organisational psychologist and coach at consultancy Talentspace