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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My tips for work-life balance

Tina is the ace team lead in the project. She joined her company, one of the best multinationals just two years ago. Her dedication at work made her the star performer and got her an early promotion. Her smartphone ensures that she’s 24/7 connected to the business even when she is at home or on a vacation. However, lately, Tina is finding it hard to keep up with the continuous work pressure as she’s climbing up the corporate ladder. She badly wants to reach to the top position but she no longer enjoys her job. She used to be good looking, but now she has these heavy pimples and marks that give her an ugly look. She used to be fit, but now she often cribs about what to wear to the office parties as only few dresses fit her nicely. She’s not into any relationship except with her parents as she find it extremely difficult to keep up with personal commitments. The problem with Tina is she is giving too much time to office, and too little to herself. It’s not that she does not think of taking care of herself, but her professional commitments keep her more occupied.


Dhawan is flustered. He believes he’s overloaded with work. For past 4 appraisal cycles he is ending up with average grade in his project. He never misses any deadlines and does decent work. He even stretches in late nights to make sure his work finishes on time. But all his managers have complained that he barely meets their expectations. And they are not wrong as Dhawan is a busy man. He has scores of his favorite sports to keep track of, he needs to keep himself updated of share market and he loves playing games with the network of his online friends. He believes in multitasking. His family, especially his wife, too has lot of issues with him. Whereas his teammates take coffee breaks, he takes call breaks to make frequent calls to his family. He often misses his team building activities and does not find enough time to attend company events.


Both Tina and Dhawan are stressed. They often crib about their life and look out for ways like binge eating, smoking and alcohol consumption to make themselves happy. They both, though have seemingly different problems, are similar in what they are missing. Proper work life balance! Paul Krassner remarked that anthropologists, use a definition of happiness that is to have as little separation as possible "between your work and your play". According to a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Company, four out of ten employees state that their jobs are "very" or "extremely" stressful. Those in high-stress jobs are three times more likely than others to suffer from stress-related medical conditions and are twice as likely to quit. The study states that women, in particular, report stress related to the conflict between work and family. People like Tina have strong urge to showcase their brilliance. They constantly stretch themselves to get their team admiration. I know a friend who even goes to the extent of doing his colleague’s work. And no wonder though he looks fit but he already has started getting grey hair at an early age. Such actions also lead bosses to have high expectations which after a certain point of time becomes impossible to maintain. What people don’t understand is work is just a part of life and productivity comes only from a healthy mind and a healthy body and soul. I remember when I was working for an Indian IT giant, there were employees who would come to work early in the morning and would dedicatedly work for nine hours and at sharp 5.30 they would send their status mails and shut down their machines. Most of them usually would head towards the Employee Care Center, and there you would see them in their tracksuits hitting gym or engaged in various sports activities. My friend learned Salsa during training days when his peers were busy studying 24/7 during training. He cleared his training in flying colors whereas there were employees who struggled to clear their exams even though they stayed awake whole night studying. I prefer playing badminton and that would simply refresh my mind for the day apart from keeping me physically fit. Being engaged in extra curricular ensures peace of mind, and the soul gets nourished.


Having said so, it does not mean one concentrates on devoting time to personal life or interests while putting the work commitments at last priority. Such acts can lead an employee tangled in a web of all sort of problems just like Dhawan. Being responsible and focus at work is always required. But the key to success is putting realistic goals and always speaking up any doubt on time. Proper planning is also required for perfect delivery. Remember nobody respects an employee who does not respect his work. After-all, you get paid for doing your work. 

Some of the tips that can assist in attaining some work-life balance in this fast moving world are:
* Discourage family to disturb during your working hours and vice-verse unless it is very urgent.
* First thing first - at work and at home.
* Use the famous quadrant system of prioritizing.
* Set realistic goals and deadlines from the beginning.
* Plan your day and track your status regularly.
* Keep focus on work and avoid distractions during working hours.
* Identify time-killers like commutation time and try to utilize it. If you travel by public transport than you may take quick nap, catch up with newspaper or respond to your e-mails on your smartphone.
* If working from home, then set an office perimeter and office hours at home.
* Leaves are an employee’s right so don’t feel guilty when you need one.
* Plan your leaves in advance and keep your team well-informed.
* Take healthy vacations periodically with family or friends i.e. vacations to relax and not to get tired.
* Set Out of office messages and avoid taking business calls while on vacations.
* Take proper sleep, meals and build an exercise regime to keep fit.
* If you are a working mother, go for a domestic help for household chores like cooking, drying-folding-ironing clothes etc.
* Remember that world has not yet ended inspite of missed deadlines, yet people generally do not succeed if they consistently miss their work commitments.

The list goes on. The point is one should be aware of where to draw a line between work and personal space. Rewards and recognitions follow those who deliver great results by doing smart work and not slogging at the last hour. Proverbial hare still loses against patient tortoise who plans and works steadily. We are living in great times as many organizations too have realized the impact of work-life theory and are offering happy work culture by supporting various policies like part-time work, work from home, work sabbatical etc. Leaves like maternity, paternity, adoption and vacation have made it clear that companies like their employees especially women to have a healthy family life. Still, there are bosses who need to understand this concept and employees who need to make them realize the balance. Remember,right attitude propagates itself and make way for a great work culture!