Who You Are; Not What You Do

Originally published October 17, 2017 by The Montrose Daily Press

Work-life balance. One of those “buzz terms” most likely only on the radar for those who don’t have it.

In fact, when asked about work-life balance, those who have it probably don’t even realize they do and those who don’t scoff under their breath, roll their eyes and usually say something like, “I wish.”

So who controls it? The boss or the team member? The answer: both.

Work-life balance isn’t defined by a set amount of hours you work each day or how those hours relate to those of your peers. Work-life balance is more about a state of mind. You can work a clean 40 hours and still be mentally and emotionally consumed by your work.

We are all walking pie charts. Work, family, spiritual life, hobbies, friends, etc. How do you break it down into a healthy mix?

1. Build in problem-solving time during your work day (and allow staff to do the same). Without this, you will find yourself sleepless at 2 a.m. working a problem over in your mind, or worse yet spending valuable family time discussing it with your partner or other family members. We are all guilty of these things, but imagine the emotional energy we would have available if we problem solve on work time.

What does this look like? An hour in the morning without a computer? A two hour block for team problem solving each week? Give yourself permission.

2. Watch your work hours. Although it isn’t always about the numbers of hours worked, sometimes it IS. Many small business owners, CEOs, or understaffed teams will argue they cannot avoid 60- or 80-hour work weeks. Who will die if you do not work those hours? What empire is going to crash down?

Jason Fried, CEO of a software company called Basecamp, makes it clear to his employees that putting in long hours is not the way to impress the boss. In many interviews on the subject, Fried has emphasized his focus on a strict 40 hour workweek, which is shorted to 32 hours from May until September. This seasonal shortened workweek gives employees more time with their families and opportunities to enjoy the outdoors during peak season. Fried believes people can get plenty done in 32-40 hours a week if they work smarter. Basecamp’s culture is one of fewer meetings and more digital interaction, which is not for everyone, but works for them. "If you're overworked and tired you make mistakes, and mistakes are costly," said Fried in an interview with CNBC. "If [companies] want people to be sharp and make fewer mistakes you can't work them 60-70 hours a week."

Regardless of what you say as a leader, people will watch what you do. If you tell your team you want them to enjoy life and cut the long hours, yet you are burning your candle at both ends, they will not feel comfortable upholding the request you have made.

3. Take it personally. I have a close friend and local business owner who often poses the question, “Are the families and personal lives of our employees our responsibility?” Most would say no upon first glance. After closer examination, one might articulate that it does become our responsibility. People work for many reasons: to provide a living to themselves and/or their family, or fulfill a sense of accomplishment and purpose through their career. Regardless of why they work, their job is important to them.

The more demanding you make (or allow) their work to be, the less they are available (even if just emotionally) to help with homework, cook dinner, or be there for their partner when he or she has had a particularly tough day. Lack of work-life balance (once called being married to the job) has been the cause (or primary contributor) to many a broken family.

Step up. Help your staff feel comfortable prioritizing home life first. If this means biting the bullet a time or two when they miss work due to one circumstance or the other, please bite down. This also means next time your kid has a baseball game, or you are having a hard day emotionally, you need to be gone from the office and set the tone for everyone else.

4. This one’s for you: Change that stinkin’ thinkin.’ Do not let it (work) consume you. This is a slow and painful process. For many of us, our work is an incredibly important piece of our life. Don’t you owe it to yourself and your family/friends to be 100-percent present in every moment you have with them? It’s a really old and possibly overused illustration, but when you die do you think you’ll be laying there thinking, “Man I wish I spent more time at work”? Not me. Life is about relationships; tiny moments of joy and finding people to spend them with. This way of thinking takes practice, but you can rewire yourself into believing your talents are enough. Trust you’ve done your best with the hours of each day you’ve been given and leave the rest at the door on your way out.

Those with work-life balance are humans first. Moms and dads, children of God, outdoors women, poets, good friends, and much more. These same people also prepare our taxes, protect our community, teach our children, make our morning latte, etc. And they do a good job of it. True balance is not defined by what we do, but who we are. If your scale is tipping too far toward the former, the power is yours.

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of Business Innovation, City of Montrose. Reach her at chelsea@montrosechamber.com.