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The Misnomer Called ‘Work-Life Balance’

Posted on 19 August 2020

Life is a continuum you cannot slice into separate parts

Since the 1970s in the U.K. and the 1980s in the U.S., the phrase “work-life balance” has been used to shine a spotlight on presumably unhealthy behaviors of working men and women as it relates to the neglect of families, friends, personal time and the like in favor of work-related activities. Many studies of this issue have shown that women, in particular, are plagued by this seemingly inherent conflict, especially when children or families are involved. As someone who has been in the professional workforce for the entirety of the “work-life balance” debate, I must admit that I have never really agreed with the entire notion. In fact, I don’t even view it as a “work-life balance” but rather as a “life continuum”.

Focusing on the “balance” part of the work-life balance can keep us all feeling on edge. Maintaining a focus on outcomes allows leaders to manage the many competing priorities that form part of life’s continuum.

Who’s making you work like this?

As Tara Weiss of Forbes stated in her article “How Extreme Is Your Job?” last February:

“To get ahead, a 70-hour work week is the new standard. What little spare time is left is often divvied up among relationships, kids and sleep.”

However, the article went on to say that “workers were themselves to blame” as “64% of those surveyed said their work pressures are self-inflicted. . . Many of the people interviewed for the study say they love their jobs and are reluctant to lessen their work load.”

Quite simply, our lives consist of many things, all of which must be completed in the 24 hour per day limit. And while there are clearly times where work-related responsibilities demand more of those 24 hours in any given day, there are also times where personal matters do. As a manager, I have always adhered to a philosophy which empowers those around me to find the “right” place on their respective life continuum by managing the outcome, not the process. In short, this means that so long as the necessary outcome is provided when it is needed, how and when it gets accomplished is of no interest.

Life’s Continuum

What managing to outcomes demonstrates to those around me is that I have the faith and trust in them to meet their responsibilities. If ever these individuals require assistance in achieving their respective deliverables, they are fully empowered to solicit support from those required. So, if they need to work late one night or on a weekend day every once in a while, by the same token, they might decide to sleep in on a Tuesday, work from home on a Thursday, or take their family to Disneyland on a Wednesday. They just need to make sure their outcomes are ready when they are needed.

Do you have challenges balancing all of your responsibilities from work, family, friends, and personal time? Do you manage to make it work? How do you do it? Please share your ideas on how to go about keeping it all together.

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This post was written by:

Nina Simosko - who has written 4 posts on Slow Leadership.

Nina Simosko is Global Chief Operating Officer for the worldwide SAP Education organization and is a member of the SAP Senior Executive team. She is responsible for more than half a billion euros in global software and services revenue. She has more than 14 years of sales and operations management experience with a tremendous understanding of the global high-tech industry. Prior to joining SAP in 2004, Nina worked at Siebel Systems, where she served as the General Manager of Education for the Americas, Asia Pacific/Japan and also ran Global Support & Maintenance Sales. Nina joined Siebel after working at Oracle Corporation running the Global Education Sales & Marketing team. Nina is involved in the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives, the Professional Area Network for Women in Technology, and the Alliance of Technology and Women. She recently joined the board of directors of YES Reading, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering students through literacy and investing in underserved public schools.

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