A condensed version was written in spanish for Dominican Republic's Top Business Magazine "Revista Mercado", for its "Most Powerful Women 2018" edition More information at www.revistamercado.do
∞ CHANGING THE USUAL PARADYGM OF WORK vs LIFE ∞
So far I can remember, while working on women leadership there was always this quest for reaching the Work Life perfect Balance. As Executive Coaches, we were always trying to get closer to the infinite ∞ Work Life perfect Balance, and it was always like running away from us like infinities do... We were handling the perfect case of an asymptote, without ever being able to reach the infinite ∞.
The problem lies in the fact that we all wanted to reach the infinite. The executive women undergoing coaching, the experts, even the companies, trying to retain the acquired talent, and making a better image of themselves... Work-Life Balance had become a utopia...
The French Government even created a rule, by joint agreement with the unions, where you could not send an email to your employees after 6 pm. So let's say you are the boss and you are on a trip to NYC, following this rule, you cannot send an email to your staff at lunch, because, well in Paris it's over 6 pm. By this hour your perfect employee is already running to the boulangerie next door buying the baguette for dinner (you should definitely blame the baguette).
Now imagine the wonderful French dinner, with a warm homemade cook soup, and some cheese and the fresh bread... and Please not that I have not said the employee is a woman... That would be the perfect work/life balance. Work stays behind the doors of the company, life begins when you put a step outside. Well, that was the idea of the rule launched in 2014. Does it sound like a utopia? It does to me... and I wonder if this rule survived.
I, myself was never convinced by the infinitesimal rule of Work-Life Balance, because of its „rule status”. Because it is a rule, it is not flexible, it is bound to break at some point. Actually, it was high time that concept of „Work-Life Balance” was revamped, after over 3 decades of promotion.
A new concept was recently created, the „Work-Life Integration”, which I quote, that according to UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, is "an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define 'life': work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health."
So when you will receive the email from your boss from New York (he is still having lunch) and while you cook your pasta (homemade soup is too complicated to do in every day's life- let's be realistic), you will give a thought to the answer. And it will be up to you, to send an answer right away, (in the risk of forgetting the pasta that you're cooking, or your children that are screaming for attention); or a little bit later when you are more relaxed.
The same synergy factor will imply that on the contrary, you will be able to attend your children most important events, even when in work hours. Because Work-Life Integration relies on one single item that is seldom mentioned: Negotiation. You will have to sit down at some point with your Boss or your HR Management and mention to them what kind of synergy will be optimal for you and your work.
I found out, interviewing women that „have made it”, that at some point or the other, they had to draw their line, and state it clearly to their boss. Drawing the line meaning stating clearly boundaries and expectations in terms of time commitment with the Company. Now I imagine the lector frowning, „that will be a tough one”, „easier said than done”. Ok I see your point. And you know what, I have myself struggled with it. Negotiation comes with flexibility. Know also, that in the case the negotiation doesn't go in the sense you feel comfortable with, you might have to jump out of this boat (meaning your current job) and find a better option for you.
The „Saint Graal” of managing efficiently Work-Life Integration, will benefit all, including your boss & the Company, provided they know what advantage they are getting from it. As Dan Schwabel, Founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, says: “Technology has expanded the 9-to-5 workday into the 24/7 workday, which has made it extremely difficult for employees to have personal time. Companies are being forced to react to this work-life dilemma […] In the future, every company will have a flexibility program and those that don’t will lose the battle for the top talent.” So the Work-Life Integration equals Negotiation, and clearly demonstrating to your Employer what he will benefit from... This might be the most difficult task, indeed:
„the biggest concern for employers who establish flexibility programs is
*potential employee abuse of the system (42%),
*followed by it not being part of their culture (40%)
*and concerns about employee fairness (34%). „
Companies are in theory willing to give flexibility a try, but at the first problems , might reverse their choice; unless the employee clearly demonstrates that productivity has been enhanced and targets met.
That you choose to go to a networking event, might be of advantage for your employer if clearly stated and explained. That you need time to assist to your child promotion is non negotiable for you, but you will, on the other hand, accept to travel or attend a business meeting on a specific weekend. I have found that the most difficult steps for a woman after the negotiation part is the follow up, without feeling that you are presenting excuses to their boss.
So in case you would like to benefit from the Work-Life Integration, the follow up part will require you to prepare a summary every month or so, of what good it has brought to the company, and what results it has gained from.
So yes, I do declare myself completely in favor of Work Life Integration, but provided you prepare yourself for the Negotiation and Following Ups never ending parts.
This and more, are part of Aletheia Art & Coaching programs.