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Work-Life Balance: Bosses Must Model It
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Work-Life Balance: Bosses Must Model It - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Bosses Must Model It

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Bosses Must Model It

A recent survey by FlexJobs reveals that of 1200 respondents, an overwhelming 89 percent of employees believes a flexible job will help them take care of themselves, but 36 percent say their bosses do not model good work-life balance, and only 9 percent say their bosses’ work habits make work-life balance easy for them.

This is a problem. When 9 of 10 people yearn for more flexibility toward better balance, and bosses neither make it easy to attain nor model it themselves, there’s a concerning chasm between what we all acknowledge is better for us and what our supervisors make possible, regardless of what they might actually say about the value of good balance.

There are two major issues at play. The first is the implication that in order to move up in an organization, one must eschew healthy work-life balance. Bosses who don’t model good balance effectively say that balance might be great for others, but not for the person who really wants someday to be where they are now.

This message comes at us from every angle, perhaps as strongly today as in the days before work-life balance had a name. Whether we’re listening to the sharks on Shark Tank or reading about the early days of today’s biggest companies, someone is telling us about days when they slept only out of necessity and never had time for dating or families or fun. While nobody’s questioning the validity of any person’s story, work culture nowadays, especially after generations of successful people wishing they’d saved more time for family, demands another way.

The second major issue revealed by these numbers is that whatever lip service leaders may pay to the concept of healthy work-life balance, they can make balance extremely difficult just by virtue of the power dynamic in the employer-employee relationship. Sending emails at 11:00 in the evening may be an innocent move: many people save important emails for the hours after the kids have been put to bed, especially if they’ve left work early to take these same kids to soccer practice. Without clarification, however, the employees feel the need to be ready for emails at any hour, a kind of stress that makes it difficult to find the psychic space to achieve balance.

Similarly, when the boss is the first in the office and among the last to leave, the implied message is that team members should put in the same kind of hours. Because of this power dynamic, behaviors by an employer are magnified, in admittedly unreasonable ways. How many times have you heard people say the boss yelled at them when the boss wasn’t yelling at all? The power dynamic, even in the most pleasant workplaces, can make a firm statement seem like yelling. The boss who’s there early enough to make the coffee for everyone and late enough to say good night to the cleaning crew may not be aware of it, but he or she may come across as yelling at the whole team to work longer hours.

You are managing a team, so of course you care about its well-being. However, it’s not enough to talk about work-life balance: you have to model it. Stay home when you’ve got the sniffles. Use your vacations days, and communicate to your team that you’re enjoying the time away from the office, even if you have to exaggerate a bit. Write your emails late at night if you must, but save them as drafts to send in the morning. And share a photo or two of the kids’ choir performances, the ones you took a few hours away from your desk to attend. Let your team see that you value balance in your own life so that they may learn to value (and practice!) it in theirs.

Reference link:
FlexJobs study: https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/flexible-remote-jobs-improve-work-life-balance-relationships


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