At Nexight, we believe strongly in promoting work-life balance. But what exactly does work-life balance mean?
Work-life balance, at its core, means giving people the flexibility they need to strike the right balance between their professional and personal lives. That said, everyone defines “right balance” differently.
- Wikipedia defines work-life balance as “a concept including proper prioritizing between ‘work’ and ‘lifestyle’.” The use of the word “proper” in that definition is misleading and harmful; only you can determine what is best for your circumstances, motivations, and goals.
- Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim recently suggested that workers adopt a three-day work week with 11-hour work days and a retirement age of 70 or higher. While most of us might like the idea of four-day weekends, there are plenty who want to work more frequently because they love their work and/or their colleagues. For other workers, an 11-hour work day is physically, mentally, or logistically impossible.
- This cool infographic highlights the routines of some of history’s most creative thinkers. This chart is fascinating not because it provides a proven formula that we can follow, but because the routines differ so much.
Given that there is no universally “correct” work-life balance that suits all people, the key is to provide flexibility within the bounds needed for effective work. Like many people, I note that my ideal balance of professional and personal has shifted over the course of my career.
During my 20s, work-life balance meant “work as hard as possible at work that is meaningful to me.” I routinely worked excessively long hours as I tried to advance my fledgling career. I loved getting to work first and took pride in being among the last to leave. During this phase of my life, I traveled all over the world for work and extended these trips as much as possible for side adventures (on my own nickel, of course!). My life was enriched by my work in ways intellectual, social, and financial. Work was a source of deep satisfaction; the latest project completed, new contract won, or promotion was cause for pride and celebration.
Today, I have an amazing wife and three young children. I now define work-life balance as “spend as much time as possible with my family.” Business trips, even those to exotic locales, are as short as possible and frequently involve red-eye flights. Instead of getting to the office first, I spend my mornings making sure my family gets out of the house on time and then get myself ready. I am rigid about leaving the office in time to be home for dinner. That said, I still love my work, so I often work in the early hours, from 4–6 a.m., before my family rises, and I usually check in with work after the kids go to sleep to address urgent issues, tie up loose ends, and get ready for the next day.
This routine works great for me right now, but others at Nexight have different lives. Some are night owls. Others stick to clear boundaries regarding availability outside of the office. Some telecommute part time or full time. Yet everyone makes valuable contributions and honors commitments made to clients and teammates.
To account for this individual preference, Nexight’s work-life philosophy boils down to a few key points:
- Give each employee maximum flexibility while still meeting client and internal team demands
- Provide tools like laptop computers, webcams, and wireless hot spots needed to enable flexible working arrangements while remaining collaborative
- Encourage cultivation of strong relationships among team members to build empathy, understanding, and trust
- Expect employees to communicate availability and expectations clearly to teammates
- Recognize that flexibility sometimes leads to conflicts that we must handle calmly, professionally, and as soon as possible
Have ideas for better ways to balance professional and personal interests? Let me hear them!