Connect with us


Being Flexible—The Search for Work-Life Balance



Work-life balance is a great idea, but the pressure of working around the clock makes this concept an illusion for many employees. When it comes to work-life balance, much of the focus has been on women and making sure they have the flexibility to be working mothers. While it’s great that leaders are aware of these significant and often conflicting roles, it may be time for leaders to realize the importance of work-life balance for all employees.

In her article “Focusing On Women’s Advancement Blinds Companies To Their Real Problem: Overworking Everyone,” Emily Peck points to research done by Harvard Business School’s Gender Initiative team. The study “blasts away at two closely held gender stereotypes. One portrays mothers as more invested in family responsibilities than their work roles. Another assumes working fathers are fully committed breadwinners, free from the pull of family life,” Peck writes.

In the end, the study revealed that these stereotypes and assumptions made by managers and supervisors, as well as regular employees, “held women back in their careers, prevented men from finding more balance and kept the (firm being studied) from understanding that everyone struggles when working long hours—not just females.”

One father interviewed in the study said, “’I wouldn’t characterize myself as unhappy. It’s more overworked, and under-familied… I’d bet that a year from now I’m working somewhere else.’”

While men are expected to work long hours and to not need family/personal time, women are held to the opposite standard. Peck writes, “…women would explicitly tell others they were leaving to tend to a family need because, in part, they didn’t want to be seen as bad mothers.”

In other words, this study is making it clear that work-life balance isn’t a gender issue—it’s an employee issue. This is where it’s important for inclusive leaders to be flexible. In my book “Becoming an Inclusive Leader: How to Navigate the 21st Century Global Workforce,” I discuss the need for inclusive leaders to be flexible in the way they approach different situations. Without flexibility, it’s difficult for an organization to grow and move forward.

In the example of how we perceive work-life balance, flexibility is a must. Although women have traditionally been seen as primary caregivers, that doesn’t mean men want to be working around the clock. Likewise, women don’t want to be perceived as bad mothers if they choose work over their child’s piano recital.

The work-life culture at your company shouldn’t heavily lean toward a specific gender. Though some overtime may be necessary on occasion, all employees should be allowed to have a life outside of work. Without this balance, work performance will slip, ultimately hurting your bottom line. By being both flexible and inclusive of your employees’ work-life balance needs, you will have a much happier company culture.

Be flexible with your employees’ work-life balance. Be inclusive!

Continue Reading