There is nothing wrong with devoting yourself to work, reveling in the satisfaction that achievement brings. A disturbing trend, however, seems to be organizations saying they value work/life balance and then reinforcing just the opposite behavior. The company line may be one thing, but the culture demands something else. For example, are your people expected to be attentive to their smartphones 24/7, responding to emails that are not urgent? If someone is out of contact for a day, is that considered a lack of commitment to the job?

Organizations needs people performing at their peak, or as close to it as humanly possible. What are the best practices around balancing work and other aspects of life that help both organizations and their people?

If you say it’s important, model it. It doesn’t take long to see through a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to balance. Don’t expect your employees to find harmony between work and other life aspects if you’re a workaholic. You  may choose to work long hours. Just make it clear that you’re also prioritizing yourself and people who matter most to you. Then expect others to do the same.

Focus on results and impact, not hours. It’s not about how much time you spend doing it. What counts is what you’re able to accomplish. Don’t make work a “I work more than you” contest.

Understand that it’s not a day-to-day balance. Martin B. Coppenhaver of the United Church of Christ wrote about his dislike for the term balance, because it implied hopping from one thing to another. He prefers “rhythm,” which he said was more about moving in step with life. Whether you call it balance, rhythm or something else, understand that there are times when work may be all-consuming. Ideally, you will take advantage of an ebb in demands to nourish your body and mind. Overall, the goal is a life that has meaning and purpose and makes a difference in the world.

There’s no magic formula. Each person must find her own equilibrium. Some find it easier to get home for dinner with the family, then respond to emails after the kids are in bed. Others rise early to get a jump on the day. The tradeoff may be less sleep, but for them, family connections make it worthwhile. Some people work like crazy during the week in order to protect their weekends. Find what works for you, and don’t feel that you have to conform to someone else’s definition of balance.

Use athletes as an example. Competitive athletes know that sleep and rest are just as important as rigorous training to their ultimate success. Why would excellent leaders do any different? Bringing your best physical, emotional and intellectual self to work requires that you take care of yourself. Start with getting enough sleep, then make sure you’re eating right and spending periods of time engaged in something meaningful other than work. You’ll get back to work refreshed and energized, allowing you to be more productive.

Part of a leader’s role is helping people craft a well-rounded and satisfying life in the midst of intense work pressure. Start today by thinking about what is important to you. Then take a step toward a life in harmony with your highest priorities. Then you will be well-positioned to help others do the same.


Want to talk to a Humanergist about your “rhythm” or anything else? Contact us 24/7. (We’ll get back to you as soon as we can, AND we won’t skip our workout to do it!)

Photo purchased at istockphoto.com