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“I’d like all of you to pause for a moment, you wretched weaklings, and take stock of your miserable existence”!

That was the advice Saint Benedict gave to his rather startled followers in the fifth century. That is the advice which Nigel Marsh followed to come out of the never ending war of “Work” and “Life”, which we, as Corporate Warriors, also wage every day. OR, rather should I be saying, which we perceive to wage every day?

While researching on this topic, The-Know-All Google had zillions of links, videos, books and many ‘Gurus’ with different ideas on HOW to do it. But the common string was WHAT is the Life part of WORK LIFE BALANCE & WHO will do it for you!

work life balance

The Life Part of WORK LIFE BALANCE

People (including me) have varied ideas around that; which we think is THE perfect definition! My perfect definition was (not is) my Personal Time! But as I went reading article after article, I realized how misbalanced my Oh-So-Balanced Idea was! The Life part has to have Balance(or how the hell am I going to bring WORK LIFE BALANCE otherwise?)

Broadly speaking, a balanced Life consists of the following aspects [these are not the words of ME-THE GURU. This is my deduction of the research and you may want to differ if you like 🙂 ]

  • Intellectual – Whatever stimulates you intellectually! Be it reading a fiction or watching science programs or as a matter of fact reading Archie comics; or even solving algebra with your young ones (Personally, I hate Maths; you always hate your terror)!
  • Emotional – Spending time with loved ones, family, friends, pets, neighbors (though not the neighbor’s wife!), etc. But that has to be QUALITY time! Now I leave that to your personal perfect judgment to define that QUALITY and the allotment of QUANTITY to it. Just a foreword, the leading lady here is QUALITY and not QUANTITY (as we already know that from various quotable quotes circulating in various mail chains, FB posts, websites, etc)
  • Spiritual – Whatever lets you connect with that unknown guiding Super Power. Meditation gives a high to some whereas attending spiritual talks are stimulating to others. Or some rejoice in the simple flow of the natural elements & practice various forms of energy channeling arts/medicine (Reiki, Pranic Healing and the likes). The idea is to do whatever brings peace and calm to the restless and stressed soul before/during/after the daily grind
  • Health – Walk, Run, Skip, Swim, Jump, Crawl, be your child’s horse or show her how the dog barks, make that heart THUMP! (People who know me must be screaming “Walk the Talk you lazy man”). Health is the only aspect amongst the above which can enable or disable you from imbibing the other three. You cannot enjoy the benefits of the first three without caring for this side of the coin. This is the most important one – that is why I saved the best for last.

Now, it would be foolish on my part to omit saying that we cannot do this every day. Perfect Equilibrium is good in theory only. In reality, we need to balance the balance! There will be ups and downs! We may not be able to do all the above every day from day one, but we need to try and open up to the idea! We need to define a territory for ourselves. As Nigel Marsh aptly stated in his TED Talk, we need to Eeeeeelongate the time frame upon which we judge the balance in our life. Having done that, we can clearly define the territory of our work and life. But we need to be watchful that we do not elongate it too much! There is nothing called “I will have a life when I retire”… for Nigel, this actually means:

I will have my life when I retire:

  • When my kids have left home and there is no one to play with
  • When my wife has divorced me because I never gave her time
  • All my mates are dead or too old and I have no one left
  • I have no interests left or I do not have the energy to peruse the fading light of my interests

In a nutshell, the duration of our judgment should not be an overhead itself!

I know what’s brewing in your mind right now: My job does not let me work on this, my boss frequently calls on the mobile, I have a delivery to make, all hell will break loose if I do not take that call, client has done an escalation….this & that! 

Let’s pause our frustrated thoughts for a moment and just watch this video. You will not need the speakers to get the message the video tries to convey. This should put the anxiety to rest (hopefully!)

Hoping that you have seen the above before continuing further, I would now like to revisit what I mentioned earlier, that the “Work” and “Life” war is only a perception of ours. Especially it’s a myth that the Work is the winning party in this battle! I am sure you will agree with me by now!

WHO Will Do The Balancing For Me?

My second deduction (here again you are free to differ) – WHO will do the balancing for me?

  • My Organization / My Boss
  • My Family and/or Friends
  • The Government
  • Mr. Obama
  • Superman or Spiderman

You must have got the idea by now. It is ‘I’ who has to do it. No one else is going to plan it for me. If they do, I may not like THEIR definition of Balance in MY life!

My organization can only provide the facilitators and tools to achieve this. I need not elaborate on how my organization has provided the support to all of us to achieve it. It is quite clear from its transparent policies of work from home or the leave structure. People Managers are asked to bring in that personal touch while managing the teams and they actually do that. I have numerous instances (of mine and others) to prove that.

But please read the lines again! I said “Supported” and notHow my organization does it for us“! An organization can only provide us the options to manage our WORK LIFE BALANCE . The ultimate act is OURS.

We have been given Laptops and some of us have been privileged with Official Mobiles. But were these given to us with a contract – “You have to be online/on call 25X7 …yes 25X7 and not 24X7”? No, that control is still our privilege. No one can deny that! It is our anxiety, our apprehension, our imagination at play here which makes us compulsive to stick to our boy-toy-gadgets and not-to-miss THAT important email (which sometimes never comes)!

Also, it is our responsibility to judiciously use the options provided to us. A little pinch can blow the air out of a balloon, similarly, a small carelessness can lead to incorrect perception of you and withdrawal of the benefits provided – which can off balance the WORK LIFE BALANCE !

Let’s talk about Work from Home. We must never convert it to “Work FOR Home”! OR even let that perception go out by way of our un-intended actions. We need to stand up to the trust which the organization has on us. A facility like this has been rolled out for our benefit – “our benefit” should not be the “loss to the organization”!

Coming back to the balancing act, it comes by investing small at the most important places (in Board Room Discussion: “Most Strategic Places”)! Some examples can be, sharing the mundane household responsibility of your partner (which he/she normally has to do), sharing a coloring session with your children, solving a jigsaw together as a family………on and on…..you decide what will give you the satisfaction at the end of the day! This does not mean we ignore work. When our clock starts for work, there should not be any other distractions. We need to be focused and bring as much productivity as we can. We fail there – the ripple goes straight to topple the WORK LIFE BALANCE . We will end up bringing that Files/Configuration/Project Plan/Development to our home!

The idea of work life balance has the potential to change the society and not just one organization; if we ALL think alike on this and work towards it, it can change the definition of Success; which is actually quite different from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money, when he dies, wins.