Finance Work What does work/life balance actually mean?
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What does work/life balance actually mean?

It's a phrase that's often bandied about - but the concept itself can be difficult to pin down.
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I read a lot of articles about managing work/life balance because there is a lot of it about. In the past few years there has been a veritable explosion in writing that focuses specifically on the topic. Most often the angle is: we all need it and here’s how to achieve it. But given that every one of us has an entirely different life situation, how do I know how much I need it? A recent article on Blog Her presented me with five questions that could help determine my work/life balance need. As suggested, I have answered them honestly below.

1. How often is the “should” word coming up in your thoughts and feelings of guilt?

I spent the early years of parenthood worrying that I should be where I wasn’t. When I was at work I should have been at home with my young sons. When I was at home with my family I was thinking about the work I should be doing. A couple of decades later and experience has taught me that it was wasted anxiety. Banish the words should, could and would from your vocabulary and just do what feels right.

2. Do you worry that you would be perceived as not being committed enough to your job if you went home before 6 pm? 

It’s less about a clock-off time and more to do with workload. I prefer to continue working from home if need be. It is not unusual for me to write reports and draft emails at midnight but as a night owl that’s also the time when I do my best work.

3. Are you spending all your time at work because your home life isn’t very satisfying? 

This one’s a big no. I can’t wait to arrive home to see my boys. The extra hours in each working week are due to the hours that I spend commuting to and from airports and waiting around in airport lounges. Throw in the all-too-frequent delayed flight and I’ll often work the equivalent of almost two days in one. I have to work on this.

4. Is it difficult to say “no” to people who request your help or your time?

Saying yes is my weakness. However in recent years I have learned that organisational structures are there for a reason and more can be achieved with far less confusion if everyone adhered to them. And that will often mean saying no to some. But I still find that difficult to do. I am working on it.

5. Are you trying to do everything yourself? 

One of my greatest skills is delegation but it hasn’t always been so. A quarter of a century ago I was more likely to manage every idea into my perfect vision for it. But you lose good people if you behave like that and ultimately that is bad for business. Experience has shown that greater things can be achieved by teams. My role is to determine the direction and the target and my capable team get us there. I have determined that I already have a pretty good work/life balance. I no longer feel guilty about being at work or being at home, and I find both parts of my life equally rewarding. And that works for me.

This article first appeared in Women’s Agenda.