Work-Life Balance

Many of us go through the work-life struggle trying to find a balance, believing in our heads that we will do it soon; I just need to finish this project, assignment, or role. We want a high-profile paying job, and we want to be there for all our family’s special moments. We want to take responsibility and go up the corporate ladder, yet we don’t want to skip a weekend with our family and friends and take long vacations in the summer.

The post corona era increased the calls for more focus on the individual’s well-being and gave more flexibility and understanding to employees’ personal lives and needs. The complete shutdown of the world with most of us locked in our homes made people pause for a few months and revisit our priorities in life, and thus such calls came to be. In the US and many parts of Europe, companies with flexible workstyle models that allow remote working have become the favored attractive places to work for instead of those that don’t offer this benefit. The number of resignations from companies that do not allow a flexible work style increased among their workers, and remote working became a decisive factor for new hires, more important than the salary amount in many cases.

There is resistance from the corporate world to accept the full remote working style and find a middle ground, except for the tech companies who were the first adopters. We all saw what Elon Musk said to his employees about returning to the office a couple of weeks ago. Many of the financial giants of America sent similar messages to employees. Nonetheless, many companies have started to study flexible workstyle options to meet the demands of their people. Some began to allow it full-time, just like the tech companies, and some offered a few days a month with remote working flexibility. There is no one-size-fits-all here, so the level of flexibility, in my personal opinion, differs from one company to the other and from one industry to another. The reality is that this model of being flexible will become the norm, and many companies will adapt to it, pressured by the market demands.

But even before COVID-19 era, people would switch workplaces to align with their values and goals or escape a bad manager or a negative corporate culture. Many are willing to get a pay cut to be in a better corporate culture or be under a good leader who can help them find their potential and grow. Mental stability at the workplace (physical or virtual) is key to all employees.

We all have four quadrants in our lives; i) work, ii) personal, iii) physical & iv) spiritual. You get 100% of your life’s components by adding them together. Some divide their time and energy equally and give 25% to each, while others ignore their health fitness factor and focus more on the other three areas. Some decide that they want to have a family, which is their priority quadrant, while others wish to devote their lives to helping others, like those doctors who travel the world supporting the needy and have no time to build a family and be stable in one place. It’s purely a personal choice, and we all do what we feel is best for us and fits within our priorities.

Imagine that your time and effort add up to 100 pts daily, and while it’s up to you how you distribute your 100 pts over the four quadrants, it must always add up to 100 pts. Hence, you cannot give all quadrants 50% of your energy simply because it will not add up. In other words, you should be willing to pay the cost of giving one quadrant more focus over the others, as there are no free rides.

The question then would be how to find that balance? In my opinion, the balance lies in knowing your vision. Once you know that, you will know your priorities and find yourself acting accordingly and smoothly. Suppose your vision was related to having a family first. In that case, you cannot commit to a job that requires you to work over ten hrs a day and on weekends, even if the money is good, simply because that means you will not be delivering on your vision of family first.

On the other hand, you will notice that all the fast movers up the corporate ladder give that quadrant more points at the expense of other quadrants. They work around the clock to beat the competition to get that promotion and prove their competency. They won’t feel guilty as they work in line with their vision, but they might feel stressed if their vision does not align with those around them, like their spouses. Hence, work-life balance does not mean treating all quadrants equally; instead, it’s by giving each quadrant the attention needed to fulfill your vision.  

Some food for thought on the next steps.

  • Have a vision. That’s not easy to know and set, but trust me, it’s an important area to invest your time and energy in cracking. Once you find the answer to it, every decision will be easy. Your vision will set your mission and values and give you a set of standards that you will not be willing to compromise and go below.
  • Find a career that fits your passion. Your career should be something you enjoy, giving you a sense of self-worth. If not, work on yourself to grow and elevate to find your desired job.
  • Big jobs cost time. The more you grow up the corporate ladder, the fewer real breaks you will have. As more responsibilities are bestowed upon you, you are expected to make decisions and be reachable and on-call 24/7. No pain, no gain.

In one of my favorite movies, The Devil’s Advocate, John -played by Al Pacino- is having a walk with his newly hired hot shot lawyer, Kevin -played by Keanu Reeves. Kevin tells John that his wife is sick and has some mental issues. So John replied by saying he would take him off the case so Kevin could focus on what mattered the most, his wife. Blindsided by his own vanity, Kevin tried to justify that staying on the case is for her own sake, “you know what scares me, I quit the case, and she gets better, and I hate her for it.”  As the best quote of the movie goes, “Vanity is my favorite sin,” says the Devil.

Nothing worthwhile comes without hard work. In all cases, it is your life and yours alone. The ultimate level of maturity is to claim responsibility for everything that happens to you. Think about it; if you say it is your responsibility, then logically, you have the choice to fix and control it. But if you say that it’s someone else’s fault this or that happened, you are relieving yourself from the steering wheel, and you won’t be able to solve it, as you cannot control other people’s decisions.

  • I wrote this post while at home on self-lockdown as I tested positive for COVID-19 last weekend.

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