Leading work-life balance

I’ve been working my way through a [very] long list of articles I saved over the past year (as you do) and I sense a theme emerging: the critical role leaders play in shaping what we think is possible in terms of work-life balance. Senior leaders “set the tone” and make it OK – or not OK – to talk about issues relating to work and personal life. And it appears that a few supportive statements won’t cut it: to legitimise their support, leaders need to change their own mindset and behaviour.

Who gives you permission to put home and family first?

The researchers in this article found that for leaders to change the status quo and make work-life balance a priority in their own organisations, they first had to shift their own mindset about what was possible. This shift started by giving themselves permission to put home and family first and learning to work differently [more flexibly] with others in the workplace. Then they need to be transparent when they are taking personal time or working flexibly and speak-up about it.

Why bother? What’s the ROI?

But as a leader, why would you bother? Most people agree that insane work hours have a negative impact on family and wellbeing, but what about the impact on innovation and efficiency in your organisation? Beyond the intended work/life benefits, the participants in this study reported that taking time regular time off (to priorities family and wellbeing) led to “more open communication, increased learning and development, and a better product delivered to the client”.

And another good reason to bother is that when it comes to end-of-life regrets, no one ever wishes they’d spent more time at work. In this great article by Shane Rodgers, he shares the career advice he wishes he’d been given at 25… he wishes somebody had told him not to let trivial issues at work get in the way of attending milestone occasions for his kids:

“I can remember every sport day and certificate presentation I missed. I can’t remember any of the reasons I missed them”.

Quote from “The career advice I wish I had at 25”, by Shane Rodgers

What does this mean for me?

As a leader, what sort of a role model are you for work-life balance in your organisation? Do you give yourself permission to put home and family first? If not, what’s one thing you could commit to doing differently that would make you a better example for the men and women you lead?

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