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Archive for Work Life Balance

What does luck have to do with it?

LuckThis blog post is the final of our “Day In the Life” series offered this summer.

“You are so lucky you can — take time off when you want / work from home.”

I never know what to say when someone says that to me and I have heard this often since I started my HR practice over a decade ago. Being self-employed, I get to work from home and take time off when I want, but does luck have anything to do with it?

I started my HR practice because I wanted to help create happy, healthy and productive workplaces. That is the business reason. The personal reason was to provide health care support and advocacy for my mother who had a stroke and I could not do this within the confines of a 9 to 5 job. The concept of Results-Oriented Work Environment (ROWE) not around at the time and compassionate care leave would not have helped since my mother was ill for five years before passing away. I was a typical member of the sandwich generation and I was on the scary path of building my practice around visits to the hospital to Joanne's picsupport and advocate for my mother balanced with being present with my husband and two teenagers when I was with them. To make a living, I worked on client projects sitting beside a hospital bed and in my home office after my husband and children went to sleep. The ability to work when and where I chose helped the daily juggling of priorities. It kept me functioning during a challenging time and it let me spend precious time with my mother who needed me, balanced with the needs of my own family.

As a self-employed HR professional, I can choose to work in my backyard, in my home office or at a client’s office. I can take time off when I want. But the reality, now as it was then, is that whenever I am not working, I am not getting paid. When I come back, I have to work harder at business development and other non-HR related tasks, like writing proposals and marketing, when I would really rather be doing HR, recruiting and training.

Whether changing a job, a career, or venturing out on your own, knowing “why” you are doing something will get you through the not-so-great times and will make the best times more awesome.

The most important things in life take conscious choice and effort. Luck has nothing to do with it.

You Hired Their Spouse–Revisited

Today is my 23rd wedding anniversary. Of course, on a special day like this, I think of my spouse, and feel like writing about an HR topic involving work-life balance.

On my 20th anniversary, I wrote a sappy blog called “You Hired Their Spouse Too“. In it, I wrote about how it takes two people to go to work these days and how an employer benefits from the extra volunteer labour by hiring an employee with a significant other.

I got a lot of feedback from that blog, and strangely not all positive. Some felt that not all employers get the benefit of additional volunteer labour from a spouse. Some even suggested that a spouse is possibly more of a productivity distraction in an unbalanced relationship. They pointed to the number of e-mails, phone calls, text messages and Facebook posts from a spouse we’ve all come to accept as being part of managing a person’s day.

In thinking of this, one thing comes to mind. It has become impossible to encapsulate “work” into regular work hours. Despite many attempts to “turn off” work at night, there are still those who chase me. During the day, sometimes there are lulls and I fill them with quick mind clearers (let the dog out, make a hair appointment, write a blog). Despite my status as a business owner, I do feel an obligation to my partners to ensure I’ve put in a real day for my pay cheque but I know some days are not entirely balanced.

I think it would be best moving forward if we could all, as a society, get to the point where we are paid based upon outcomes vs. hours. Unfortunately, as long as employment standards legislation exists, we will continue to have to revert to hours, and the guilt associated with less than perfect daytime focus.

In truth, my spouse rarely sends me jokes during the day (but the ones he does send are really funny!) or calls about frivolous news (did you feel the earthquake?). But he is there, on my mind always, and he does interact with me in a happy way that brings me a sense of well-being. If you don’t like the reality of the pros and cons of the spouse in your employee’s life, phooey. You’re missing out on so much benefit a spouse can bring.

As for my spouse, babe, I’m cutting out early today and will be home soon. Looking forward to dinner.


Job Burnout? Is this happening to you?

Does your life seem unbalanced or do you feel like you have no life? Are you feeling exhausted all the time? Do you feel like work is all you manage to handle? Then maybe “job burnout” is what best describes the situation you’re going through.

Working hard on your business, taking care of a family, striving to move up the career ladder, or working for paying off your house or car loan can lead you to devote more than too many hours to your work. This exhausting daily routine has become your daily life, or better said your daily imbalanced life, and you feel you can’t operate without stress.

So if you feel it’s about time you got out of this situation and you want to bring balance back into your life there are six ways you can avoid job burnout. And here there are:

1. Make a plan of required hours of work and stick to it. The first step to free yourself is to admit your working hours are more that the needed ones.

For example, if you find yourself working in the office till late everyday, become aware of the situation and admit that working at that level will eventually bring you down physically and emotionally. Of course working extra hours from time to time may benefit your business or career advancement and your pocket. But when extra hours become your daily routine then you get exactly the opposite results from what you wish for. So instead of being productive and competent you become inefficient and unable to make clear and profitable decisions.

2. Use available tools that can help you do your job more efficiently. Nowadays there is a huge variety of tools that you can help you save your time and use it to the advantage of your free time with your family and loved ones. So find out which of them serve you needs best and learn how to use them. You may think that you don’t have the time to invest on learning how to use these tools, but trust me; it will take you less time than the one you spend working till late at night, in the long-term.

3. Work delegation. This is a term probably you have forgotten about. A characteristic of busy people is that they believe they can do all the work by themselves because no one can do it as well as they can. But then, why are the other people there for? And if you are a manager, why have you hired them in the first place if you believe they can’t do a good job?  Whether or not they can do such go work as you can, overcome this belief and start delegating work to others too. Because if you don’t, you will end up doing more and more of the work all by yourself and even 24 hours will not be enough to finish your tasks.

Seeing it from another point of view also, by delegating, you give others the opportunity too to grow and develop. And if delegating is part of your job description, then it’s not only “nice to do” but it’s your duty too!

4. Give yourself a break. It’s important to relax your mind a few times per day from your busy schedule at work. So get up from your chair and go out to get some fresh air and change environment for a while.  Take a coffee break and have a friendly chat with your co-workers about something “light” and irrelevant to your work. For example take about where you plan to spend your vacation or a nice movie you watched. Anything that can keep your mood up and help you “escape” for a while from your job.

Give your loved one a call just to say “hello” or to make your plans for a common activity for later on today.

5. Use the annual leave to which you’re entitled. Taking the time off will help you stay healthy and fit and prevent job burnout. During your vacation time you will have time to focus on your personal life and recharge your batteries by doing things you really love doing and you didn’t have time for them because of your busy schedule.

As much as possible, shut down your laptop and turn off your cell phone. You can’t imagine how invigorating this is!

6. Stay in contact with your feelings about your work. Acknowledge your feelings; they’re all valid and worth your attention. In addition, your feelings can be your first clue that you’re close to job burnout.  Are you getting tired of working all the time? Or are you totally excited and interested in your job and full of energy to focus only on it? Or is it becoming really hard to cope with?

If you find out you’re having negative feelings about your work, take action to resolve the challenges that are causing this negative feelings. It’s important that your work is a positive part in your life and not a machine sucking in all your energy.

Having a healthy work-life balance is important. Start practicing the above mentioned ways to avoid getting yourself into a job burnout situation. Find out how liberating and beauty is to live a balanced life that will not only revitalize your personal life but will make you also more productive and efficient in your professional life.