American workers are stressed.
A World Economic Forum article on workplace well-being places some of the blame on the pandemic and the move to remote work, which blurs the lines between office and home. Employees who regularly feel burned out say they have problems fulfilling family responsibilities, which can lead to increased health problems.
The article references Gallup’s annual State of the Global Workplace report which finds that worker stress levels have risen for a third year in a row, with 44% saying they felt stressed on the day before Gallup conducted its poll. This is an all-time high.
The report concludes that employers need to change the way they think, suggesting that “leaders need to add well-being measurements to their executive dashboards. This can alert them to critical warning signs that do not show up on traditional spreadsheets.”
With all due respect to Gallup, I don’t see how creating and adding metrics to a dashboard will lessen anyone’s stress level or promote a healthier work-life balance. However, I think we all need to change the way we think about work and our need to take care of responsibilities at home.
Genesis10 recently received a Best Company for Work-Life Balance award. It’s the fourth year in a row we earned this recognition. What is it about Genesis10 and the culture that CEO Harley Lippman and his leadership team have created that makes us deserving of such an award? Are we doing anything differently from other companies?
What is work-life balance anyway?
I never liked the term. It doesn’t make any sense. Especially when we work from home, what does work-life balance even mean? I picture myself putting on a Genesis10 hat, removing it for a Dad hat throughout the day. That’s not it.
Whether we are working from home or back in the office, work-life balance is about making sure that everyone around us feels that we are giving them what they need, while we don’t rob ourselves of what we need. I like to use the metaphor of a flight attendant instructing passengers on using oxygen masks during an in-flight emergency to describe what I mean. If we don’t put our masks on first, we’re not going to be able to help anyone else. Work-life balance is exactly that.
As I see it, it’s all up to us, and not so much any program or metric that an employer sets up (although the employer has a role which I’m coming to). At work, and at home, we need to set the tone. We have to make sure that we’re healthy first and set a healthy example. Everyone at work and at home needs something, regardless of their role. Can we give the person the time that they need? We are all busy. No one has enough time. But if it’s important enough, we always find a way to give it enough time. To use another metaphor, achieving work-life balance is like conducting an orchestra.
Creating an equilibrium between home and work is not easy.
Work-life balance comes from having peace with who we are and who they are, on both sides of the equation, but nothing is equal. Work-life balance is a negotiation of your time. Some days personal wins. Some days work wins.
At Genesis10, we are allowed to create our own pendulum for what works for us. Harley and his leadership team understand that we have to have work-life balance. They say: Tell us what works for you, and we will support that. If we can’t, we’ll tell you why or we’ll work together to figure it out.
But we have to meet expectations. We’re held accountable. Genesis10 understands our need to be with our families, but what are we doing to meet expectations while we are with our family? If we are not meeting our numbers, we have less leeway.
It all goes back to understanding, when interviewing for a new role, the people we will be working with, the people we report to and those who report to us. We need a manager who realizes what we bring and our ability to be autonomous in what we do. But we also have to make sure that our personal side is okay with what and how we do what we do. That’s important.
Everyone has to find that on their personal side. If we don’t, that’s where the conflict comes in—when we’re not honest on both sides of the equation. If you have children, you should have that conversation with your manager. For me, it’s ‘I am a present dad in my child’s life. Nothing is going to change that. It’s the most important job in my life. I will meet my numbers. You have to trust me. When I don’t hold up my end of the bargain, hold me accountable. I am okay with it.’
That’s work-life balance.