Concepts such as “work-life balance” and “living an intentional life” may seem a bit lofty and idealistic in highly technical IT organizations. However, IT leaders are tasked with the same kinds of metrics for success as any business leader and compromising work-life balance can lead to significant employee turn-over. As such, they need to ensure the professional health and development of individual team members as well as a positive corporate culture for continued business growth.
What Does “Work-Life Balance” Mean?
Sixty-six percent of full-time employees is the U.S. do not believe they have achieved work-life balance, and 57 percent say technology has ruined the modern-day dinner. True “work-life balance” occurs when both sides of your life are flexible enough to allow you to spend the time you need to be present and engaged in the workplace and at home. If your professional life is too demanding and inflexible, you need to be prepared for that level of commitment and sacrifice. If not, there is no balance. For me, living an intentional life means making conscious choices with my time and focus that allow my work life and my home life to align and coexist. This in turn allows me to be my best professionally as well as personally, both as a partner and as a parent.
If you are truly seeking work-life balance, you need to define what success looks like for you, both personally and professionally. What are your goals on both sides and what are the timelines to achieve those goals? You must also ensure that there is open communication and be 100 percent aligned with your partner in life on what it is going to take to accomplish your goals. You will never find a healthy work-life balance without clearly defined goals, plans, and buy-in from your partner.
Once you’ve decided what’s important to you, it’s time to set priorities. Often when people are stressed in their work and personal lives, it is because they are trying to accomplish every goal they have—all at once. Set aside time to determine what is most important to you and your family; then focus on accomplishing those primary goals.
Many people like to call this “quality over quantity.” This is a key factor in avoiding burnout, which has serious business and personal ramifications. Burnout impacts the bottom line of businesses—nearly half of HR leaders say employee burnout is responsible for up to half of their annual workforce turnover. On a personal level, setting priorities can literally save your life. Employees clocking 55 hours a week are at 33 percent greater risk of a stroke and 13 percent are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than people working a 40-hour week or less. Long hours have also been linked to depression, insomnia and even Type 2 diabetes.
Whatever you do, my recommendation is to pick your priorities and stay laser-focused on meeting those goals. You owe it to yourself to narrow down your list so you can be successful in meeting your goals.
Focus on The Long Term
When setting your goals and priorities, I always tell people to make sure you focus on long-term results. So many people get caught up on what they are doing today or tomorrow and have little choice in where they end up in several years. I do not believe in the saying that “life is short” which is too often used by people looking to excuse their rash decisions.
I personally believe that “life is long”—take a long-term view when setting goals and making decisions. You are going to have to live with those decisions and where they bring you for as long as you live. My wife and I have chosen in our life together to make decisions as a team. When looking at a new opportunity, we weigh how it will affect us as a family and how it will get us closer to achieving personal and professional goals. We choose to approach life as a partnership and we make communication a priority, which lends to fewer surprises. Travel and busy times at the office are going to happen, but we both understand how they fit into our shared long-term plan.
Your Role as a Leader
As a leader in your organization, you must understand that when you push your employees too hard, you are essentially destroying their work-life balance. This is not the path toward long-term success—these valued team members will burn out and they will leave. I am not saying that you cannot push your employees—I’m a fan of the saying, “the harder you work for something, the more you appreciate it.”
With that said, it is of paramount importance that you let your employees know it is okay to focus on their personal lives when important things come up. I try hard to lead by example by showing my employees my dedication to our mission as a company as well as my commitment to my family, and I encourage them to be intentional with their communications at work and in their personal lives.
In addition to conveying this message on a personal level, there are a number of tech tools you can recommend to your employees to help them find greater work-life balance, from issue-spotting apps to stress management tools to organizational and planning platforms. If you support your employees with a work environment that encourages and supports them personally as well as professionally, they will be happier, more productive, and more likely to be dedicated to your company for the long haul.