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Work-Life Balance: Loosening Boundaries At Home & The Office
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Work-Life Balance: Loosening Boundaries At Home & The Office - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Loosening Boundaries At Home & The Office

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Loosening Boundaries At Home & The Office

Over the past couple of years, we’ve looked at many different approaches to work-life balance, offered by many successful people with meaningful advice. And it’s all valid, because what works for that CEO doesn’t necessarily work for this middle manager, and balance is an ever-shifting state. Sure, certain themes do repeat themselves—such as flexibility, setting priorities, and not falling prey to the tyranny of the urgent—but unless and until we feel we’ve mastered it ourselves, it’s worth considering all perspectives until we find the mindset and practice that get us closest.

Among these recurring themes is the concept of setting boundaries: these hours are for the company, these other hours are for family, and those hours are for self. Or this corner of our lives for body; that corner for mind; that one for spirit. However we define the boundaries, we are encouraged not to let things (mostly work) creep over into the realm of other things (mostly life), because that’s how things quickly become unbalanced, by coming home for dinner ten minutes late today, which makes it easier to come home late twenty minutes next week. These boundaries often take the form of rules, such as no emails after 10:00 in the evening, no personal calls at work, or no lunches at desks.

Yet research may be suggesting this is the wrong approach, that instead of holding firm on fences we draw between our work time and our family time, we should loosen up those boundaries and let separate aspects of our lives take over as we feel the need.

Consider the colleague with the office across the hall, the one who’s making phone calls for donations to the third-grade Adventure Day in between emails to the east coast office about the new tech strategy, or rallying the other soccer parents to sell more chocolate bars while she puts final touches on the annual report. Nearly every office has one—that person who seems to be in mommy mode and executive mode and fitness mode and friend mode all at the same time. Her to-do list each day is divided into columns separating the different realms of her life, but she works on the whole list seemingly at the same time, wherever she happens to be.

What’s happening with the colleague across the hall when she accepts a phone call from another soccer parent while she’s at her desk is called a cognitive role transition. The moment the call comes in and she sees who it is, her mind shifts into her soccer-parent role, whether she answers the call or not. Researchers surveyed 600 employees, asking them about incidents where family life crept in on work life, and those whose boundaries were looser, while experiencing more of them, were less strained by these cognitive transitions. Each transition, on a case-by-case basis (Take the call? Let it go to voicemail?), as each incident arose, was easier for those who had made it part of their workflow to let some of those intrusions through, integrating home life with work life. Those who set harder boundaries experienced more mental stress and found it more difficult to stay fully in work mode.

Are those with looser boundaries just better at the role transitions because they are more practiced at switching from one to the other? Or are does their flexibility make it easier to say no to a home-related thought because they know they can and will get to it later, when the time is better? Either way, what we’re looking at is a matter of stress levels and mental exertion, which are enormous parts of the balance equation. Perhaps our colleague across the hall has an extreme version of permeable boundaries, but she may be on to something healthy and effective in keeping life balanced while keeping her mind healthy.

Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160504092932.htm

 

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Work-Life Balance: Loosening Boundaries At Home & The Office - Executive Leadership Articles

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