I have to admit something. I’m writing about all those business/psychology related topics but I never read a book about it. I read some books about business and some books about psychology, but never one about self-help in this particular area of topics. If you ask me why, it’s probably due to the fact that I have never felt the need to read one before and also due to limited free time that I had during the last 15 years, that I was using to read/watch/listen to something else.
Now, when I managed to allow myself a couple of months of break from work, and I started writing about all those topics, I also started reading – not books – but articles about different issues from different authors.
One topic is predominant. The topic, of course, concerns a work-life balance. It goes together with burn-out syndrome stories and advice. Followed by how to keep good and talented people on board. Of course, I have probably read below 1% of articles on those topics, but my general impression is that most of the authors are focused on solving the problem when it’s already there. Healing, not prevention.
Advice like: create time that is only for you and your family, switch off your phone after 6 pm, refresh yourself daily, spend time with friends and family… Honestly, this all sounds to me like a recovery from pneumonia or another even more serious condition.
Based on my experience and intuition I would propose a different approach. Create environment where you are not going to come to the point that you have to apply all those “healing” methods. Easier said than done. I know. But try something like this:
- Recruitment is the key! Do your best to recruit people that fit into your team or your vision of team, 100%. Find people that will understand why they should not call after 6pm. For me, getting a call after 6 pm was never an issue. It was always about who is calling and how he/she is talking to me. Even if we are talking about junior positions, I would say that recruiting young people that inspire you, that behave in a way that is pushing you to be better – can also be very important. For example, when I had an intern who was ready to question things, to express his/her opinion out loud, to challenge my decisions – I also felt obliged to do the same toward the structures above me. You know how I always say that in a good movie everything is about good timing. Well, the second most important thing is good casting. And if casting is not good, the only thing that you can do is to cut someone out in editing. And that’s already healing. Or, to be even more precise – surgery.
- Learn to speak up! And actively support culture of speaking up. Just like with families, in a working environment most of the small problems develop into huge problems due to the fact that people stay silent about it. Of course, in a complex corporate structures it’s not easy to be the one that voices the issues and speaks up about what is wrong. It’s easy to get fired like that. You will find much more people just smiling and confirming everything that their bosses say. But if you start practicing constructive and criticism with style I’m sure you can become a strong voice that will not be branded as someone who is always complaining.
- Get to know yourself. Think well if you are the kind of person for a corporate life or a small business? For start-up or family business? The difference is huge, although the same things can happen to you in all those structures. Many small business owners told me that they never sleep well. Their working day never stops. On the other hand, many managers from big companies were devastated with feeling tortured, exhausted, powerless or useless. Advice such as “Pick a boss, not a job” sounds very sexy on nicely designed posters signed by the smart people who say that. But in reality this is hardly possible. I picked a boss but he left to another affiliate after 6 months. Instead of this, I would say: Pick the type of working environment, not a job. And then contribute to the further development of that environment in a direction that will prevent any damage to your work-life balance.
Of course that those three principles will not solve all work-life balance related issues. But I consider them a good start for my own new start. And we all have to learn much more about prevention. You will hear about prevention all the time when it comes to physical health. Change nutrition, start working out, don’t sit too long in front of the computer etc. How much effort do we make to prevent any damage to our work-life balance which is the base of our mental health in these days of modern living?
I would like to conclude with one of the key things that I learned during the last few years. Work- life balance can’t be the company’s KPI. Some HR people have to treat it like that in order to earn their salaries. But, actually, it’s a very personal responsibility of all of us. HR can be there just to offer certain technical frameworks.
Good luck and sometimes say “Cheers” not only to your big achievements and good salaries but also to a good balance that you are able to achieve.