Alright, I’m just going to say – BALANCE IS BS. It doesn’t exist. And to top it off, I thoroughly believe this “you can have it all” crap is a construct that has tricked women into doing more work both in the office and at home. Okay, okay I’ll get off my soap box (a little). But, before we get into a series on work/life integration I need y’all to understand that while you can do ANYTHING, you can’t do EVERYTHING.
Balance vs. Integration
First off, a huge thank you to Gen X who brought us the idea of work/life balance. They learned from the lack of quality time that they got with their own parents that they wanted something different.
And now here we are, Millennials and more and more Gen Z, being faced with a totally different workplace. One where we’re never really “off the clock” because of those beautiful smart phones attached to our hands 24/7. One where it’s no longer realistic for most families to prosper off of one income, meaning both parents are generally working. We no longer have what Heather Boushey coined as the hidden subsidy, “The American Wife”.
There isn’t much room for this idea of “balance”, meaning that we can separate and compartmentalize our work lives from our home lives. When your boss is emailing you, texting you, and calling you at all hours of the day and night it’s difficult to leave the office at the office. The old adage of being the first one to work and the last one to leave to prove your value, has only gotten worse with the timestamps of the 3am emails.
Instead we need to shift our workplaces to the idea of work/life integration. Where our work lives and home lives are instead integrated. Where we embrace technology and its benefits, such as being able to work from anywhere, anytime. Meaning that when life crops up during the regular “work hours” it’s okay to take care of life demands, and it’s also okay to have some work crop up in our normal “home hours”. We have to get rid of this idea of on the clock and off the clock (SORRY HR PERSON – I KNOW YOU WANT TO KILL ME). But instead focus on getting the work done, and getting it done well.
Allow your teams the opportunity for Alternative Work Schedules, the opportunity to flex their time as needed, and remote working opportunities – if even just some of the time. Don’t shame your staff for needing to stay home to take care of a sick child or parent, don’t say, “must be nice!” when someone leaves the office early to catch their kid’s basketball game, and don’t watch the dang clock to base your value on how visible someone is in the office. Value your team based on their engagement, willingness to contribute to the team, flexibility, and most of all from their work product and quality.
Multi-tasking doesn’t work
This has broken my heart every time I read a new study, mostly because I have always considered myself a great multi-talker, but newsflash – MULTITASKING DOESN’T WORK. Study after study has now shown us that when we multitask we take MUCH longer to complete tasks and we’re much more likely to make mistakes.
Hence, why we need the flexibility to integrate and mix our work and home lives. I need to the flexibility to take a day during the week to let the repair man in at home, take a field trip with my kids, or get in for my doctor’s appointments AND I need the flexibility to come in on a Saturday to make that day up. I need to not try to do all the things, all at once and instead feel freedom to focus on one thing at a time even if it doesn’t agree with the traditional work hours.
So, What Now?
Take it from one of my favorite fictional characters, Ron Swanson, “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing”. I mean if the advice is good enough for Leslie Knope, it’s good enough for me. Share with us in the comments what one thing you’re going to whole-ass this month! And remember, you can do ANYTHING, you can’t do EVERYTHING.