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Continued from Previous……
In the Last Part , we shall continue to look at the possible ways to achieve better work life balance. And conclude the discussion on this topic.
Work Life Balance is interpreted differently by people. It is based on personal orientation, ambitions, goal setting and a host of other factors. It is also viewed differently by the people in the same context. For example, work life balance is generally seen differently by spouses. It also varies if both are working or one is working. Parents don’t mind if their children spend long hours at work and less at home; they rather appreciate it. Work life balance will therefore be different for unmarried and married people. It also varies with gender; long hours working is a virtue for men; long hours working for women is a concern. The bottom line is that there are many variables in this subject. Having said that, it still stands to reason if a decent balance between work and life is achieved and maintained by and large. Occasional overwork may not be considered as a threat to life. Occasional, unplanned retreat may also not be considered as detrimental to work. The balance line is somewhere in the middle.
Following measures shall help to improve work life balance.
- Setting Priorities: In May 2011, I read an article in Harvard Business Review, written by HBS Professor Clayton M. Christensen. It was titled ‘How Will You Measure Your Life? I saved the article and have returned to it quite regularly to get deeper meanings out if it and to remain inspired. I would like to quote him directly because it is the most appropriate way.
Quote. “On the last day of class, I ask my students to turn those theoretical lenses on themselves, to find cogent answers to three questions: First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not.”
“One of the theories that gives great insight on the first question—how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more MBA students come to school thinking that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.” Unquote.
What applies to managers also applies to the managed. Both have to understand and set the priorities right.
- Life Purpose: is an equally important and powerful determinant of how and if at all we shall achieve work life balance. I would again quote directly from Professor Christensen.
Quote. “Over the years I’ve watched the fates of my HBS classmates from 1979 unfold; I’ve seen more and more of them come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children. I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. And yet a shocking number of them implemented that strategy. The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy.
It’s quite startling that a significant fraction of the 900 students that HBS draws each year from the world’s best have given little thought to the purpose of their lives. I tell the students that HBS might be one of their last chances to reflect deeply on that question. If they think that they’ll have more time and energy to reflect later, they’re nuts, because life only gets more demanding: You take on a mortgage; you’re working 70 hours a week; you have a spouse and children.
For me, having a clear purpose in my life has been essential. But it was something I had to think long and hard about before I understood it. When I was a Rhodes scholar, I was in a very demanding academic program, trying to cram an extra year’s worth of work into my time at Oxford. I decided to spend an hour every night reading, thinking, and praying about why God put me on this earth. That was a very challenging commitment to keep, because every hour I spent doing that, I wasn’t studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted about whether I could really afford to take that time away from my studies, but I stuck with it—and ultimately figured out the purpose of my life.” Unquote
- Integrity: Integrity is not just limited to honesty as is popularly interpreted. Integrity actually means to stand firm and steadfast on principals and values. Integrity therefore encompasses whole life; not just a set of dealings. I would again quote from Professor Christensen.
Quote. “This (Marginal Cost) theory addresses the third question I discuss with my students—how to live a life of integrity (stay out of jail). Unconsciously, we often employ the marginal cost doctrine in our personal lives when we choose between right and wrong. A voice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK.” The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails. Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.”
The lesson I learned ……… is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.” Unquote.
Dear Friends and Colleagues! The Blog series on Work Life Balance generated a lot of interest and drew many comments. It actually touched a raw nerve close to home. It shows how important it is for all of us.
Work Life Balance is critical for us, our work, our growth, our happiness, our families and our children. We have got to reach as close to this target as possible. I urge you to include it in your daily to-do-list and in your short-term, mid-term and long-term objectives. May Allah The Almighty Bless you all. Aameen.