After fifteen years working in IT, of which ten outside Romania, one of the major conclusions I have reached is that the work-life balance does not exist.
In fact, I believe you have also reached this conclusion if you worked in the industry, even for a few months. What is this endless run for the doubtful concept turning into? In turns into the continuous restlessness to do more and faster, to be better in our career, and, in the meantime, to be better parents than our elders were, and, if we can squeeze even a bit more free time, then write that book we promised ourselves we will. Yet, we don't stop here: we are also altruistic people; we want to be known as people who help the ones in need. And we also do sports, starting Monday.
In this way, our life turns into a TODO list, infinite in length but also in the quantity of self-blame it brings us, because we just don't have enough time for all our desires.
There is a simple and profound equation of our life. We have 24 hours a day, of which we sleep 8, we spend 9 at work, 1-2 hours eating, under the shower, in traffic, maybe even visiting the dentist. We are left with 2 hours of personal time a day at most, for us, and if you have children… then you know exactly how many hours you have left.
I have clients who told me that after I showed them these simple but powerful numbers, they got scared, and then they slowly came to the realization that our daily personal life is in fact way too short.
Which person with above medium intelligence would not be scared, when understanding that personal time is 2 or fewer hours a day?
Back in the day, the magical solution to our problem was defined by a series of steps that would miraculously create time, either in the work domain, of the life/family domain. One of the biggest problems was the perspective of work-life being a zero-sum game. That meant that, in order to win time in the family, the work had to suffer. Reversely, in order for work to win resources, family/personal life would have to lose.
There is no wonder that the people were confused, and that companies would not invest in these kind of programs for their employees - these kind of courses would have hurt the organization.
Who is then the new player on the field?
This new perspective appeared in the famous world business universities (outside of Romania) and is taught in MBAs or private, via coaching. The idea is as follows: people are successful not in spite of the fact that they have a rich personal life, but exactly because of that!
Famous people have successfully applied this model: Michelle Obama, Bruce Springsteen, etc - I would like to tell you the story of a fascinating man and his vision. Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and controls over 400 companies!
Richard has done revolutionary things in his companies, and one stands out amazingly: he offered unlimited vacation to his employees. Yes, your read right. Richard is an innovator and surely a great humanist. However, his company (Netflix) is not losing money because of this policy, but the other way around, it attracts talent and well-being.
Through his unlimited vacation policy, the company hires the best people - who does not want to work in this environment? The team work shines , vacation times are taken in agreement with the team, and nobody wants to be the black sheep. Loyalty - would you leave this company for one that does not provide this benefit?
What Richard understood, and the main thing that guides him is:
Many assume my business success has brought me happiness. But the way I see it, I am successful because I am happy.
People like Branson, Springsteen and Obama have achieved great things in their career because they knew how to integrate all the parts of life: job, family, community and self. They are examples of how we can cultivate a life where our own values, actions, social contribution and personal growth can coexist in harmony.
Work-life integration is the process of learning multiple domains of applied psychology, which takes a minimum of three months. The subjects it covers are very many, but I try to describe a few.
First, and probably the most important point to clarify is personal vision - Where am I heading to? I can disclose that many people find it extremely difficult to find a direction in life - not accounting, of course, for the sinister "I want money", "I want a family", "I want what others want".
What many discover is that their attention is directed far too much towards work - not only during work hours, but also afterwards. The stress of the 9 hours at work is brought in the family. Maybe you also feel this. This phenomenon leads to burnout slowly but steadily - which neither you nor the company wants.
Who are the most important people in my life? You'll be pleasantly surprised how much time is freed when you clarify your list of people who have a role in your life, and also eliminate the ones that do not matter.
Are my values aligned with my actions? We tend to live on auto-pilot, checking as many things off that TODO list I mentioned in the beginning. Many people realize they do things they do not wish, but they do it anyway, because they "have to", because "everybody does it like this". However, this does not bring them happiness, but rather frustration and stress. However, this can be changed - see below.
I want to change the traditional way I was doing things (including work, family or self). What do I do to bring innovation in my life? The ones who are open to psychology are also the ones who already have wishes and dreams, and they need practical methods of attaining them.
Work-life integration brings a lot of benefits, like superior interpersonal relationships - both at work and at home, understanding life as a system that you can control, creating sustainable change, etc.
By far though, the biggest benefit is winning… time. Clarifying one's vision, the people who matter, understanding change management, all these bring you more time that you can spend on yourself or on your loved ones.
Maybe surprisingly, this time it's the company where you work that could be your ally. As I was writing in this article, the income of the company is tightly related to the personal happiness of the employees.
A person who knows to communicate in a correct psychological way with the loved one or the children will also know to efficiently communicate with the colleagues. A person, who lives in stress at home, will bring it to work as well.
In the words of Richard Branson:
Happiness is the secret ingredient for successful businesses. If you have a happy company it will be invincible.
It is in the interest of the company to differentiate itself and to offer the best things to its employees. In fact, I have already talked to businesses in Cluj which are more and more open to this subject, so most likely they will implement programs like this this year.
There is no work-life balance, but fortunately there is work-life integration. People, like me and you, need the most expensive resource in the world: time! Deep knowledge of psychology taught by top universities in the world can bring them this most expensive request. Companies are interested in offering them this very valuable and market differentiating thing.
I wish you to learn the highest quality things that will offer you a much richer life, and to have lots and lots of free time!
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