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LIFE-WORK BALANCE REVISITED
    Photo of Don Sutaria
February 2012
 
 
 
My dear friends, colleagues, clients and students:

This Month's Feature Article
This month's article, How You Can Strive for Life-Work Balance, is quite controversial, especially with the struggling economy we have today. Motivation to work hard from the fear of losing one's job may be acceptable for the short term. However, if this continues for an extended period of time, it is very detrimental to the individual, his/her family, and society in general. Let us have your thoughts and share your experiences with us.

Free Career Directions Workshop
A Career Directions Workshop is being held for 10 consecutive sessions at Presbyterian Church of New Providence, New Providence, NJ. It is in partnership with Long Hill Chapel, Chatham, NJ. The workshop began on Wednesday, January 25, but you can join at any time and take as many sessions as you like.

This workshop is free and open to all at no charge or obligation. Advance registration is appreciated. You may register online at http://careerdirections.eventbrite.com or call Diane Hill, (908) 665-0050. This workshop will be presented by A. J. Rice and T. Wilson. Details can be found on www.PCNP.org or www.LongHillChapel.net or by calling (908) 665-0050. Registrations will also be taken at the door.

Book Endorsements
Our book, Career and Life Counseling From the Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!), has received many excellent reviews. Eleven reviews gave the book a 5-star rating, and four have a 4-star rating.

Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? says:

"Don Sutaria is one of the career counselors I most admire in the U.S. He talks about things other career counselors don't, like "your soul." Now he has written a book I like a lot, with brilliant short chapters you can digest day by day. I recommend it unreservedly to everyone."

  Career and Life Counseling From the Heart book cover
We are deeply grateful for his endorsement.

This book has been nicknamed Chicken Soup for Your Career! Take a peek inside this book at Amazon.com before you decide to buy it. It is also available as an e-book from iUniverse.

Encouraging News
During the month of January, hiring seems to have picked up. We sincerely hope that this trend continues.

Until we meet again through the magic of e-mail, keep your feedback coming.

Peace! Love! Shalom!

Don Sutaria, MS, IE (Prof.)
Founder, President & Life-Work Coach
CareerQuest


 
  How You Can Strive For Life-Work Balance  
  by Don Sutaria

Sometimes I bury my head in the sand, like a proverbial ostrich! Perhaps the power of optimism and idealism takes its toll. I prefer to call this topic life-work balance instead of the conventional terminology, work-life balance, a term first coined in 1986 in America. My reason is obvious! I consider life more important than work, and work as a means to achieve the life you desire. Most readers may disagree with this concept and that is O.K. too!

       Photo of a puzzle with the word Balance.
This new term, work-life balance, signified the unhealthy choices that many of us were making in favor of the workplace, as we knowingly decided to neglect our physical and mental health, family members, friends and leisure activities in the pursuit of corporate goals and the almighty dollar. Many of us discovered that our ladder was leaning against the wrong tree and that we cannot take it with us, a rude awakening!

It is my firm belief that an integrated and balanced life is like a pizza with eight slices. If one of the slices is missing, it is not a complete pizza! The eight slices are: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, cultural, and educational.

Nick Halpin of The Counseling Service of the University of Dundee, Scotland, talks about a similar concept for work-life balance, and refers to eight anchor points as follows: job, self-care (sport/exercise), community activities, family relationships, friends and colleagues, religious/spiritual concerns, hobbies/interests, and future plans/projects.

An article in The New York Times of Sunday, January 22, 2012, caught my attention. Herminia Ibarra, a professor of organizational behavior and chairwoman at Insead, the European business school in Paris, France, made an astute point. She found that her key to efficiency was to arrive late and leave early. She is able to take her 6-year old son to school, be a more effective parent, and at the same time finish her targeted work for the day. Grant you, being an academic helps, but the principle is illustrated.

Juggling domestic duties is not just the domain of women. A Harvard study by Erin Reid surprisingly found a category of men who were successful in terms of performance evaluations and compensation, but who actually worked fewer hours and were unavailable for the office on evenings, weekends and vacations. But they also learned that they did not wish to broadcast their strategy. These men banded together to cover for each other.

"There's lip service about work-life balance, and then there is reality."
Jim Bird is the founder and CEO of WorkLifeBalance.com. His study shows that during the 1980's, enlightened companies such as Merck, Deloitte & Touche, IBM, and Monsanto initiated several work-life benefits. These are: Flextime, Employee Assistance Programs, Telecommuting, In-house Stores and Services, Child Care, Gym Subsidies, Elder Care, Maternity and Paternity Leaves, and Job Sharing. He also concluded that work-life balance needs a healthy mix of four components: Work, Self, Family, and Friends/Community, not necessarily in exactly the same proportion at all times.

I really woke up when I read the chapter, Work-Life Balance: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Having It All (But Were Afraid to Hear), in the recent book, Winning, coauthored by Jack Welch, the former chairman and chief executive of General Electric and his wife Suzy Welch.

Welch is remarkably and refreshingly candid about work-life balance. In a Newsweek article of April 4, 2005, he says:

"If there was ever a case of 'Do as I say, not as I did,' this is it. No one, myself included, would ever call me an authority on work-life balance. For 41 years, my operating principle was work hard, play hard and spend some time as a father. It is clear that the balance I chose had consequences for the people around me at home and at the office. For instance, my kids were raised, largely alone, by their mother, Carolyn."

Welch continues: "I have dealt with dozens of work-life balance situations and dilemmas as a manager, and hundreds more as the manager of managers. And over the past three years, I've heard from many people—bosses and employees—about the complex issue of work-life balance. I have a sense of how bosses think about the issue, whether they tell you or not. You may not like their perspective, but you have to face it. There's lip service about work-life balance, and then there is reality. To make the choices and take the actions that ultimately make sense for you, you need to understand that reality: your boss's top priority is competitiveness. Of course he wants you to be happy, but not inasmuch as it helps the company win. In fact, if he is doing his job right, he is making your job so exciting that your personal life becomes a less compelling draw."

"We can't do everything, but neither can we retreat from the things that are important."
Jack goes on to say: "Most bosses are perfectly willing to accommodate work-life balance challenges if you have earned it with performance. The key word here is: if. Bosses know that the work-life policies in the company brochure are mainly for recruiting purposes and that real work-life arrangements are negotiated one on one in the context of a supportive culture, not in the context of...but the company says...! People who publicly struggle with work-life balance problems and continually turn to the company for help get pigeonholed as ambivalent, entitled, uncommitted, incompetent—or all of the above. Even the most accommodating bosses believe that work-life balance is your problem to solve. In fact, most know that there are really just a handful of effective strategies to do that—staying focused on what you're doing and saying no to demands outside your work-life balance, for example—and they wish you would use them."

The October 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine has a fascinating article by Keith H. Hammonds. On the cover it proclaims in bold print: Still Believe in Work-Life Balance? Forget it (But here's how to have a life anyway).

         Universal Office Handbook: Chapter 30: Life-Work Balance

The Benevolence to Employees and Dependents through Life Asset Management (BEDLAM) program is designed to help employees achieve life-work balance. Key features are:

Flextime: You shouldn't have to choose between work and time with the family. Therefore, we have instituted a flextime policy that allows employees, with the manager's approval, to complete their 60-hour week as they see fit. Employees can choose seven 8-plus-hour days or three 20-hour days, allowing for a long weekend to sleep.

Family Leave: Because the company is headquartered in Bangalore, India, it is not obligated to abide by family-leave laws. But to help employees "be with" loved ones in the event of a new child or medical emergency, we do offer discounted picture frames, appropriate for office use, in which to place family photos.

Child Care: To ensure the well-being of employees' children, the human resources department, in a program launched with our warehouse, offers reduced-price childcare to dependents ages 5-13. Eligible children must be able to lift 20-pound boxes, operate accounting software, and/or drive a forklift truck.
        


This vignette, adapted from the comedian Ryan Underwood's materials, may not be too far from the truth. In most cases, employees get a lot of lip service from employers, but from practical consideration standpoints, when the rubber meets the road, the employees are left high and dry, due to fear of losing their jobs in the present economy.

"The fallacy I see here is that family obligations can conveniently be subordinated to those at work. Child rearing is a difficult proposition and cannot be rationed or given a lower time priority; you get only one chance!"

"Balance is Bunk!" says Keith H. Hammonds. It is a central myth of the modern workplace: With a few compromises, you can have it all. But it's all wrong, and it's making us crazy.

"Do we throw up our hands then? We can't do everything, but neither can we retreat from the things that are important. How do we make work and life happen on our terms? The short answer is, we don't entirely. But there are saner ways to confront the problem," says Hammonds.

      A faded photo of a family.
Hammonds believes in the concept of embracing imbalance (something I don't agree with...a precursor to workaholism!). Instead of trying to balance all our commitments and passions at any one time, let's acknowledge that anything important, and anything done well, demands our full investment. At some times, it may be a demanding child or an unhappy spouse, and the office will suffer. At others, it may be winning the special account, and child and spouse may have to fend for themselves. Only over time can we balance a portfolio of diverse experiences.

The fallacy I see here is that family obligations can conveniently be subordinated to those at work. Child rearing is a difficult proposition and cannot be rationed or be given a lower time priority; you get only one chance!

"....we're going to have to accept a pay cut."
If we want time with our families, time to give back to our communities, time to stay slim, we're going to have to accept a pay cut. For many, the great fallacy is not that we aspire to accomplishment, but that we aspire to everything else, too. Unwilling to prioritize among things that all seem important, we instead invent for ourselves the possibility of having everything...in other words, The Superman/Superwoman Trap, according to Hammonds. I could not agree more!

Here are some helpful hints in devising your own life-work plan:
  • When you go on vacation, regardless of the duration, leave your cell phones and laptops at home.
  • Make a list of core values most important to you.
  • What are your dreams?
  • What do you want to splurge on?
  • Do you want to put family first and spend time with your children?
  • What is your exit plan for retirement or a shortened work week?
  • Is your financial plan sound, including later years?
  • Are you spending enough time in friendships with people?
  • Are you still having some degree of fun at work?
  • Do you still have the resources for entertainment and travel?
  • Do you have to keep up with the Joneses?
  • Where do you really want to live?
  • How can you maintain your health?
  • Are you continually developing and improving our relationships with people around you?
  • Are you giving something back to our community or constantly just taking something?
  • Are you aware that when life makes you want to call a time-out, perhaps it is time to call in a coach?
Best-selling business author Rob Parsons exposes the myth that the longer you stay in the office, the more successful you will be, in his latest book The Heart of Success. Subtitled 'Making it in Business without Losing Your Life,' this new book helps you balance both work and life.
"...no one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time in the office"
Parsons believes that family life should be valued more than a career (perhaps a very un-American concept!) and he is against the current pressures of working long hours, which can lead to executive burnout and lack of fulfillment. Parsons describes how the phrase that 'no one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time in the office' had a tremendous impact on him as he changed his life to free up more time for those closest to him.

In The Heart of Success, Parsons identifies an emerging social class—the new poor.

"Time poverty is hard to spot because often every other part of the life in question seems to be going so very well. This person has a high standard of living, those they love have every material need provided. The kids get expensive presents at birthdays and Christmas and attend the best schools. The family may go on several holidays a year, there may be a second home in the country, and a family membership of a health and fitness club.

But the time pauper has a growing sense as the years go by that he or she has 'missed it', that somehow they have been cheated or fooled. They have spent the best part of 20 years rushing around fulfilling the demands of others and they have built up a fair stock of material possessions, but they have a gnawing at their very soul that they have had little time to develop close relationships with those they love. Time poverty is tragic because while we strive for 'success' it simultaneously attacks those we care about most."

      A photo of an hourglass and a clock.

For the past 20 years Parsons has been traveling around the world, giving seminars on life-work balance. He believes that women have a significant role to play in fighting to obtain a better life-work balance by pushing for flexible hours and by refusing to play the long-hours game of their male counterparts.

Parsons offers seven guidelines for success in business and life in his book.

The seven laws are:
  1. Don't settle for being money rich - time poor.
  2. Believe that the job you do makes a difference.
  3. Play to your strengths.
  4. Believe in the power of dreams.
  5. Put your family before your career.
  6. Keep the common touch.
  7. Don't settle for success; strive for significance.
"Time poverty is tragic because while we strive for 'success' it simultaneously attacks those we care about most."
If any of the following danger signs apply to you, then it's time to readjust your life-work balance.
  1. You work longer hours than anybody else.
  2. You resent colleagues who work fewer hours than you do.
  3. You are often irritable, headachy or exhausted.
  4. You are often ill on holiday.
  5. You go out for dinner in your business clothes.
  6. You are furious if the car in front of you doesn't move away from traffic lights quickly enough.
I think there is only one intelligent creature on this great big planet earth who had figured out true life-work balance! For many years, as soon as I put my key in the door to my house every evening after work, he wagged his tail furiously and jumped out of his skin to show how much he liked me. Behind this show of affection on his part, he had no ulterior motives. His name was King, a black Labrador Retriever. He lived with our family for almost 13 years, and we had brought him home as a new-born puppy. (King died on Monday, September 11, 2006, and left a big hole in my heart!).

A dog is the only domestic animal I know of that doesn't have to really work for a living. A donkey has to carry the burden to a marketplace, a hen has to lay eggs, a cow has to give milk, a canary has to sing, a monkey has to entertain you, but a dog makes his living by giving you nothing but unconditional love! Think of it!

 

Don Sutaria, also known as "Career Doctor Don", is Founder and President of CareerQuest. He has been quoted frequently in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on radio and television and has taught at various colleges. He is the author of Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!).


 
 
Don Sutaria, M.S., I.E. (Prof.)   
don@careerquestcentral.com     www.careerquestcentral.com     http://careerquestcentral.blogspot.com   
Phone: (908) 686-8400     Fax: (908) 686-8400 (on request)     Cell: (908) 377-9015   
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