During my time in paid employment, I have had the honour of working with or under the leadership of different bosses (depending on how you want to put it). Whether male or female, they all have some things in common;
- they always want to be in charge (who doesn’t?)
- they feel they know more than their team
- they often feel they are the only ones under pressure
- they feel they deserve to get more and the list goes on and on
However, when they fail to deliver on their task, they blame it on their team inefficiency, lack of commitments etc.
I once knew a retail outlet manager that graded every member of his team average in an annual appraisal and was shocked when the management (from the head office) decided to put him on a 3 months’ probation for grading his entire team as average. “this is non-sense” he said as I recalled, “despite everything I have done to keep this place running, “we met our sales target for Christ sake and our compliance score was about the threshold!” he yelled.
Later in the week, when the volcano was less reactive, I tried to explain to him that his appraisal score is the summary of his team performance.
“Kelvin, Abeg this is not a Union matter he said” trying to remind me that I have no idea of the workings of management politics. He felt I wasn’t enlightened enough about enough performance management principles or maybe that my active role as a union executive at the national level at that time wouldn’t have conferred on me any form of knowledge that requires common sense. I made extra effort to explain to him the relationship between his summation of his team performance in the last review exercise was an indictment on his own appraisal rating. He didn’t see the logic so, I gave up!
He finally got the message when he raised the issue during a management townhall meeting later that month and the HR manager at the time bluntly told him that how can he expect to be promoted when all his team members are “Average Performers?” trying to quote his exact comment on his team appraisal summary form. “who does that?” the HR manager asked.
He looked around trying to see if anyone understood what the HR manager said, when he realized he was the only one whose ignorance was on display he sat down quietly. If he said anything else afterwards, I was close enough to hear and I wasn’t interested either.
Back to our topic of discussion, Work Life Balance or WLB like I love to put it, means a condition in which our work/business/career does not create any friction/obstacle with our other important roles in life like family, health, relationships, faith, love, civic duties etc.
You could say it’s a principle of not robbing Peter to pay Paul. Peter here means our work while Paul could represent other important life commitments. It means understanding that our life or a healthy life is all about balance. Just like our food, we need all the nutrients or a good combination of it in our daily meals to ensure we are not just alive but function optimally.
Who needs work life balance?
What is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. Anyone that works deserves to have a balanced life, not just the bosses, employers or top executive. Even the gate-man, janitor, courier and everyone below, between and above the corporate food-chain.
Why is work life balance important?
Just like our body, it is not enough to be alive, the health of the individual is key. So also, with our work. To understand this better, lets quickly look at why we work?
We want to get paid for doing something, we want to be respected (speaking of dignity of labour), we want to be part of something tangible, we are not just lazy, we want to be rich, we want to create jobs for people around us, we want to be in charge of something or people, it makes us happy. The list is endless.
The summary is that, we work so that we can have a better life! It then makes no sense if the same work that is meant to give us a better life threatens the same life it meant to protect.
Work life balance helps to become fulfilled, to achieve the key objectives of our existence. It helps us to manage the stress that comes with work to ensure that it doesn’t seep into our life just the same way the challenges of our personal lives should not get in the way of our productivity at work
What is the benefit of work life balance?
It helps your team to be productive, it gives them a sense of fulfilment. When the are happy working with you, they tend to stay longer delivering value to your business. It also contributes to their mental health as they are able to better handle life challenges. It helps them to trust you more as they see you as an employer that cares about the welfare.
How to Promote WLB in the Work Place
Communication: when you encourage open communication, it gives your team a sense of belonging. Everyone loves to be heard and when you create room for people to be themselves it stimulates trust. Manager should encourage their team to communicate effectively by not victimizing those who do so. Feedback channel should be open and efforts should be made to act on any feedback received.
Work Design and Structure: thanks to the lockdown that was triggered by the recent Corona Virus epidemic, business owners have come to see the need for innovative, flexible and personalized work systems that can be deployed to improve work experience. The concept of working from home is popularly acceptable among employees as it reduces the stress and cost of commuting. When employees are able to work in ways that is favourable to them, they tend to give their best, managers will need to design their team work and help them manage the distractions that often comes with working from home. Flexible work pattern is also another way. Companies can design shorter work shifts so that they can have their staff work shorter time (during their most productive hours) and not be required to spend the whole 8hours in the office when they are clearly not doing much
Technology: when employers invest in technology, it improves the work experience of the team, they are able to function better with ease without compromising on productivity. Things as little as computers, work phones, performance improvement trainings, office ambience etc. Use of teleconferencing for field operatives will save travel time, cost and stress associated with it.
Socials: employers need to be deliberate in planning their social engagement so that employees can benefit fully from these activities to bond among themselves and also integrate their families to get closer to their place of work and the people that are connected to their loved ones.
We all need the Balance in our lives.
Work Smart, Not Hard!