Value-Based Leadership: Recalibrating the Concept of Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance means different things across the span of the Quad, the four generations in today’s workplace. Asking for a couple of days off as a reward for a job well done is commonplace for Xers. They may seek to spend time with their loved ones or hang glide off a cliff. Experience is everything to them. They crave it in their workplace, but they also want a life full of memories that may not always involve work. Balance is also important to Millennials, who seek to not upset their lifestyles, even at the risk of losing a promotion. There’s no reason to think Homelanders won’t follow suit. And, well, Baby Boomers have learned the hard way that perhaps they need a little more balance in their lives. Even though they’re becoming the elder statesmen and stateswomen, it’s still hard for them to slow their drive. They’re learning from the rest of the Quad to enjoy life more and stress less.
A Millennial manager speaking to a Boomer vice president: “Don’t you have a family, dog, cat, or hobby to go home to?” It wasn’t said with malice or sarcasm, but with genuine concern for the VP’s out-of-whack, late-night work habits. Remember, Millennials are ambitious too. They’ll take flexibility in their work schedule to accommodate the balance they seek — all they ask is to not be judged for it. They can’t understand anyone who doesn’t make balance a priority.
The aforementioned OECD has determined the indicators for balance as time devoted to leisure and personal care compared to the number of hours employees work (see the figure). The OECD further ranks the overall quality of work-life balance amongst the workforce; with 1 percent being the lowest ranking and 10 percent being the highest, the United States achieved a 6.2 percent ranking for work-life balance. The U.K. scored 6.6 percent, Canada got 7.2 percent, Germany came in at 8.8 percent, and the Netherlands provided the best work-life balance opportunity with a whopping 9.4 rating. Each nation has work to do in creating better balance in the workforce.
One final statistic to further emphasize the need for work-life balance to be taken seriously: 95 percent of all human resource leaders believe that the biggest sabotage to retention in the workplace is burnout.
Some generations don’t crave work-life balance, but for others, it’s a mandatory component in their equation for happiness. To help everyone find their balance and set your own expectations at a realistic level, consider the following options, making them available to everyone in your organization. Start with what you think can realistically be implemented into your organization:
- Do permit flexible work hours — you’ll get more out of your staff’s talents.
- Do encourage volunteerism and, if possible, offer volunteer time off (VTO).
- Do set mandatory personal time off (PTO) requirements.
- Do abolish inefficient, time-sucking meetings. Reduce the number of meetings on a whole so people can get their work done without having to burn the midnight oil.
- Don’t expect everyone to work ten-plus hours every day.