I was recently at a conference when I overheard someone say “There is no work-life balance in this profession. People need to accept it.”
I took a few deep breaths as statements like this to me are complete bunk and do nothing more than reinforce a work-life culture that is negative and toxic. As I chewed on this sentiment later that night, I thought that instead of just complaining about individuals who spout this rhetoric, that I would offer one simple action step you can take to improve your work-life balance. Here it is.
Advocate for yourself because even at organizations with amazing work-life policies, nothing will happen if you don’t speak up and ask to use whatever mechanisms are in place. Don’t rely on managers or companies to optimize your work-life. It starts and ends with you.
Advocate in job interviews because many of us get a work-life question during the process anyway. So answer it and when asked if you have any questions for the panel, ask them the same question they asked you. For example, if they ask what you do to refresh yourself, you can ask “What opportunities do you provide so that employees can refresh/destress?” Look for reactions an not just the verbal response to get an indication. If you are offered a position, ask questions about any work-life provisions/questions you may have. Will you require some flex in summer to get kids to/from a daycare? Do you commute from afar and want to know if there are winter weather flex options? Ask before the final acceptance.
Advocate for others. In a previous blogs series I wrote about how the war between employees with children and those without needs to end. We need to advocate for work-life solutions that work for people and part of that involves understanding situations and advocating for coworkers and employees.
Advocate for an open office culture to discuss these issues. The “secret work-life arrangement” kills office trust and undermines what work-life initiatives are supposed to do. People don’t need to share all the details of their lives but they shouldn’t feel as if they should hide them.
Advocate at professional conferences when you hear statements that reinforce negative work-life stereotypes. My frustration with that statement turned into a really productive lunchtime conversation that allowed me to interject fresh perspectives. If you are given the opportunity (and this is not always possible), give a work-life workshop or talk. Yes, i am a speaker and I love to do this so it is not for everybody. However if it is for you then go for it. I took the stage a few years ago at a professional conference and did that very thing via a PechaKucha talk.
Progress cannot be made if we do or say nothing. Cultures don’t change if we stay static and quiet.
Paul Artale is a work-life and leadership expert dedicated to helping professionals and organizations overcome challenges and achieve their goals. More about Paul can be found at www.paulartale.com