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HT PowerJobs| The balancing act

Work-life balance is the latest buzzword doing the rounds in the boardroom, says Sonali Majumder.

india Updated: May 30, 2006 13:41 IST

Jim Bird, the President of worklifebalance.com, a leader in work-life balance solutions, has a simple philosophy: "I just want to achieve something today and enjoy something too. And if I do both of these things everyday, for the rest of my life, I'm going to have a pretty good life," he says.

A simple, yet profound concept, and is probably the best advice anyone can offer you for incorporating balance into your work-life.

Balance is necessary, for it gives you a measure of control over your life. As work schedules become hectic and the customer expects 24x7 service from a company, the employee is under constant pressure to perform.

"Today, most employees are reeling under long working hours and pressure," says Sanjay Salooja, Founder and CEO, Empower, a work-life value company. And if the pressure gets to you, then the balance could tip.

The effect is, of course disastrous, with the employer and the employee 

 

 Balancing act

suffering in the long run.



A survey conducted on how personal problems could impact your work life, pointed out that 30 per cent of absenteeism is related to an employee's inability to cope with personal problems. And that nearly two out of every five employees are dissatisfied with the balance between their work and personal lives. 

The symptoms of living in imbalance are quite obvious - mental duress and lack of concentration. "The employee is usually in a tearing hurry to shift from one task to the other and is unable to do justice to any," says Ajay Oberoi, Senior Vice President, Aptech Limited.

As a result, he feels tired constantly and eventually burnout sets in. "One can quote the example of Amitabh Bachchan who used to pump 17 hours into his workday. And this is, no doubt, one plausible reason for his illness," says Dr. R.L. Bhatia, CEO, Fun and Joy At Work.

So how does one go about achieving a work-life balance? There are five stages that one must go through to achieve this, the first one being the phase where you struggle to understand what is wrong and what you are missing in life.

Says Bhatia, "You just feel out of control." In the second stage, you juggle various responsibilities and develop tricks and techniques that allow you to create a sense of control.

"This is a precarious stage and the skills that allow you to juggle two balls may fail as soon as a third ball is added to juggle," he says. Now comes the third stage -- work-life balance -- where you actually begin to fulfil your multiple responsibilities and enjoy a sense of equilibrium. The trick is to focus on all your energies and get through the day.

The fourth is work-life integration where you are not only able to fulfil all your work responsibilities but also have enough energy to put towards career planning, career development and personal growth. You have a sense of where you are going, says Bhatia. In the final stage of work-life harmony, you are completely in control of all aspects of your work life. 

Even organisations have started realising the importance of work-life balance and are taking some concrete steps to help employees snap out of the imbroglio.

A company, for instance, has come up with a Wednesday Blackout policy, which essentially means that lights are switched off at 6 pm every Wednesday -- a signal for employees to wrap up and push off.

Then there are companies that have formulated flexi-hour policies for their employees. This allows people to adjust their workday while maintaining full-time hours -- an ideal arrangement for someone who might want to start work early and leave early. "I know of a manager in a company who worked flexi-hours from December to May to meet with a family responsibility," says Bhatia.

A compressed workweek is another option. "Companies even allow employees to work the entire week and club the holidays together to meet family," says an Editor of a publishing house.

For that to happen, you'll obviously have to look for an opportunity to talk to your employer. "It's better to be prepared in advance and not spring it onto a manager on a Friday afternoon in a fit of tears after an exhausting week," says Salooja.

Let them know exactly what you are looking for and explain why. Do this not from the perspective of "I need to spend more time with my kids" but in terms of "In order for me to be the most effective employee possible, this is the work arrangement that I need in order to fulfil my commitment."

And if you are wondering whether flexi-arrangements would hamper your career, then let me tell you a flexible schedule does not always limit your career.

"It can slow down your career path slightly because it may take you longer to get the necessary experience for promotion, but it shouldn't limit growth in the long run," says Bhatia.

After all, it's good to remember that the more out of balance or out of control your life is, the more you pay in terms of physical and emotional health.

"You probably won't eat properly or consume more caffeine, more alcohol, more sugar, and you are less likely to exercise on a regular basis. Your relationships, too, could become unstable -- quite a heavy price to pay for an unbalanced life," says Salooja.

A stressed employee may spell trouble For companies, too.