WORK LIFE BALANCE: MYTH OR REALITY PART 1

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The concept of balancing work and life has been a major topic amongst professionals in this age. The ability to manage the emotional needs of family members with the expectations at work has seemed to be a difficult task. The business environment has not helped matters and that is not peculiar to any organization but the desire to survive in the midst of the challenging economic environment has kept organizations on their toes resulting in much more sacrifices and devotion to work than ever before. This article is to explore the various conditions that are responsible for the imbalance between work and life and evaluate if the desire to balance it is a myth or a reality.

There are many questions to be answered. Does work-life balance exist? What are we trying to balance? We keep working very hard, trying to be the best at work, studying more to become better professionally and academically and also trying to be the best father and mother to our children. We also desire to be rewarding children to our aging parents. Can there ever be a balance? The desire to be successful drives us to do all these. However, there seems to be a balance in the days of our parents and grandparents where some of them even come home to have lunch with their children and still return to work but those days are no more. Today, it seems a choice has to be made in what we actually want while the other one may be the sacrifice that has to be made.

The World of VUCA

One of the factors responsible for the imbalance in work and life in the workplace today is the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of the world we live in. The world today is volatile with unstable challenges, uncertain with unknown outcomes, complex with many interconnected parts and ambiguous with lack of clarity. The world is changing with a rapid speed than as ever been known in history. We are today operating in a complex environment made prevalent by the rise of globalization and information technology. Famous companies are disappearing either because they went bankrupt or because they were taken over. An example of this: only 11% of Fortune 500 companies from 1955 are still on the list today. These factors have made it inevitable to be much more committed to work ethics than ever before. Sacrifices are required from employees to work much more thereby denying them the satisfaction of being with their families.

Role and Profession Dependent

There are roles and professions which require a higher degree of dedication and sacrifice for success. As an experienced sales and marketing professional, I can say that the higher you rise in the profession, the hotter it becomes and the more the level of dedication required most especially when competition is becoming more aggressive and looking for how to increase their own market share in the business environment. Therefore, it is imperative as a middle manager or senior manager in the sales profession to expect a level of denial to your family because of work exigencies. Another profession that requires a great level of sacrifice is a military or para-military career. This is a profession that requires a lot of postings both locally and internationally and it will be a mirage to expect that there will be a balance with your family life when you are always away from them on official duties. These instances are pointing to the fact that a work-life balance is somehow improbable in this age and with certain professions

Forget the Balance: You Have To Make Your Choice

It has been discovered with experience that a balance may not exist between work and family or life as we may want to call it. There are sacrifices that need to be made. It will be a difficult task to be on a trip out of your country of residence for either a short-term training of a week or a month while you decide to take your family or children who are enrolled in school on that trip. I watched a session anchored by the CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi and in her words; she said she does not think a woman can have it all. Hear her: “My husband and I have been married for 34 years and we have two daughters. Every day, you have to make a decision of either being a wife or a mother. We have to co-opt a lot of people to help us. It is always difficult to check my daughters in school when the open day clashes with my schedule at work. I had to get someone to stand in for me. I have come to realise that the biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other”. A state will be reached in your career when you need to make a choice for either work or family. This does not mean the family will not see you but one side of the divide needs to make the sacrifice. It is either the task at work suffers or the expected relationship at home will not be satisfied. This leads us to the solution to the work-life myth which will be talked about in the next part: Work-Life Integration

A Feeling at Your Workplace

One way to experience a feeling of a work-life balance is when you are emotionally stable at work. Emotional stability at work could give you a perspective of having a work-life balance. Emotional stability at work is due to a lot of factors which range from workplace culture, your boss, your colleagues and your associates. When these factors are aligned with your emotional state such that there is no entropy in your system, it gives you some state of emotional satiety. That state enables you to find time to call your family members and also find time to stay with them. Meanwhile, that does not mean you have a work-life balance, it is just a feeling that comes from the emotional stability that you experience at work. The solution to this mirage of a work-life balance will be continued in the next part.

Written by: Oluwole Dada, (Regional Sales Manager at Nestle Nig. Plc; Member, Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK))

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