Lowering the barriers to work/life balance

One of the business simulations incorporated in our programs is called ‘Pressure Points’. Unwittingly, a barrier is created (raised) by participants in the simulation that negatively impacts communication, problem-solving, and decision-making. The challenge is to lower the barrier to these and the ‘Pressure Points’ bar will follow. Like life, what seems simple, is at times quite trying. In ‘business as usual’ the barrier often goes up rather than down.
Participants often describe the need for better work/life balance. And it seems one of the current infringements on this alluring ‘balance’ is the technology that was suppose to help us achieve it – EMAIL
Aside from too many emails being ‘cc’d’ to people who don’t really need to know (nor care to know) there is another significant problem – Checking and responding to emails on the weekends and after hours.
What was once a fun thing to check on the new ‘mobile device’ has now turned in to an addiction that is hard to kick. Yes, it’s a global economy, but does it have to be a 24/7 economy? Who is making that rule? If you are checking and responding to emails after hours and/or on weekends then you could be-unintentionally. By doing so, you help raise the barrier to work/life balance because whomever you emailed may have felt (out of duty, guilt, fear, brown nose etc.) compelled to reply on the weekend… and so on and so on and the multiplier effect ensues and now people are checking their devices on ‘date nights’, children’s sports events, dinner tables, on the couch.
Perhaps you just wake up early or stay up late while others are sleeping. Might you need a good nights sleep too? Will the caffeinated ‘energy drink’ pull you through and make you present during the rest of your sleepy day?
The costs? You know them – less time to exercise, less energy, less quality time with those you care most about, less time for you and more distractions and stress.
Are there exceptions and benefits? Of course, such as, closing a deal; use of ‘jet lag’ time in hotel rooms. Working with a client in India or the Czech Republic requires some odd hours. We know that anything taken to excess has the potential to become our weakness. Thus, it’s not all or none, rather, whether out of duty, joy, ambition, or fear we must remain aware of the line to know when we’ve crossed it.
Trust the process (a work week etc.) and people on your teams. The barrier will lower. Things will get handled in a timely, professional, manner. Customers and business will carry on quite well…and you will too.
So who is going to go first – and with their seemingly insignificant amount of influence on the barrier of work/life balance in their firm – and NOT do emails on the weekends and such? Will it be you or will you wait to see who goes first? If the later, we’ll all be waiting and doing emails ferociously in the meantime. And the priceless non-renewable resource of time for self and those we love is gone. Be aware of the pattern (and what’s important to you) and make a choice.


One response

  • With all the new mediums which to receive information this is not limited purely to email. There is twitter, feeds, google reader, text messages, yammer, google buzz, youtube, forums, mailing lists, social networks and every other stream of information that you want to keep up with.
    People may be working harder by checking email after hours and on the weekends. But I think that working harder isn’t valuable unless you’re also working smarter.
    If something doesn’t seem right, such as having the need to check email all the time… then something is wrong, but not necessarily with the amount of time, but rather the technique.
    There will always be the young single person whom is impossible for the single parent to keep up with… so what can that single parent with less time do? Work smarter.
    The barrier will always be growing higher. To compete, businesses and individuals need to continually educate themselves about new technologies, strategies, and tactics to maintain their business and personal edge.
    One idea: migrate as much email correspondence to a (public or private) blog as possible. This puts the conversation into a group environment where everyone can comment read the others’ comments and then collaborate in a much more rich experience than with email. Email messages can get lost, entries/posts to a blog and associated comments are archived. If the blog is public then the discussion can be open to voices outside your company (crowdsourcing) and the content will become searchable by Google and other search engines.
    My advice: survey the available and popular tools, consult with experts on strategy, read up on trending topics and generally work smarter.


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