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Work life balance – Examining the Impact on Wellbeing and Organisational Effectiveness

Claire Genkai BreezeClaire Genkai BreezeIn this final blog before the Health @ Work Summit 2014, I want to think more deeply about how the challenges of work and technology are inviting us to create and adopt new thinking about our lives, our work and the use of our energy. I think this is particularly important, as how we describe our lives, what we tell ourselves about our wellbeing can directly impact our long term effectiveness and our sense of perspective. Living in a new and emerging world of pace and interconnectedness with an old mindset has two consequences for us and our organisations:

  1. The solutions we create are outmoded by the time we implement them and therefore we lose faith in our ability to stay well and contribute fully.
  1. Organisations become populated by people working on the edge of exhaustion; which affects decision making, problem solving and customer service. No one can sustain that and be fully effective, but the pace is not slowing and if you choose to slow down, you run the risk of losing competitive advantage.

ResilienceThis image goes some way to illustrating this dilemma we all face. A set of scales shows that when you weigh one side, the other gets light. When you add the same amount to both trays, the scales seem to balance themselves out.

For many years when we have been discussing work life balance with this attitude to our energy and our wellbeing in mind. This model worked well when the variables of our lives were limited. By this I really mean ‘the way things used to be’.

The table below illustrates some of the shifts we are now living with and they can be summed up by three words: Pace, Connectedness and Control.

Old New
Low technology 24/7 connectivity
Offices and regular hours Hot desking and flexi contracts
High street opening hours On line purchasing at any time
Technology in the office Technology in the home and on the move
Sunday is a day of rest Mobility is the key to health
Expertise is with health professionals Health data available to everyone
Work and home distinct and separate Lines between work/home increasingly blurred

The compartmentalised world of the past is coming to an end. Increasingly faced with the separate domains of our lives overlapping in such a way that people work at home, in the evenings, shared desks and time zones means that achieving work life balance is becoming nostalgic. At the same time we need to find ways to manage our energy, work in collaboration, stay healthy, remain marketable in the work place for longer and increase our adaptability. This is a big challenge. As all of this begins to dawn on us, how should organisations respond?

In this new world where the individual has more choice, where customers’ individual preferences are attended to and personal data about your own health and wellbeing is available to buy on an app, or a wristband; organisations and employees need to create a new working alliance that connects wellbeing, productivity and sustainability.

Navigating a new working alliance between employees and organisations

A few years ago the smart organisations realised that there was a direct relationship between employee engagement scores and customer service. In other words happy people deliver better service to customers. In the integrated world of pace and connectivity and commercial demand there is an increasing realisation that energized and resourced people, lead more effectively, collaborate better, learn faster and innovate more easily.

All of these attributes have the potential to create competitive advantage and increase social cohesion between business and communities. In the future, your ability to attract talent to your organisation may be as important as remuneration, learning opportunities and social purpose. The successful organisations will find a way to treat their employees like adults and individuals who can be trusted to assess their own needs for recovery, rest, stimulation and enthusiasm for work.

As our demographics shift, as the number of people living on their own increases, as diversity in the work place is finally becoming more endemic; organisations have to give individuals the freedom to choose when to work, how to work and to some degree where to work. Technology, diversity and global influences will all play their part in increasing tailored approaches to helping people’s work foster attention on their wellbeing. In the future we may come to realise that sitting at a desk all day may actually be damaging our health. How will organisations adapt to that? In return each of us as individuals has to be able to offer an equally adult response to this working alliance of the future. Seeing ourselves in partnership with organisations, means that we have a real and radical responsibility for our own health and wellbeing and our productivity.

The notion of balance is replaced in our minds by a much more sophisticated approach. It begins with believing that energy is essentially limitless if we know how to harness, replenish and create energy by working in harmony with our bodies, our minds and our sense of what gives us meaning and purpose.

If our wellbeing is primarily our own responsibility we can use all that is available to us right now to stay refreshed, happy and energized by our life, our relationships and our work

  • For your physical energy: eat well, sleep well and get your body moving
  • For your mental energy: practice mindfulness, add variety and stimulation into your day or week and lean towards opportunities for learning new things
  • For your emotional energy: build a great support network, spend time with people who energize you rather than drain you, stay clear of conversations full of complaints and sarcasm – laugh and smile
  • For your spiritual energy: do something for others regularly, make a note of one thing to be grateful for each day, spend a little time on your own each day in simple silence (looking or listening to what is around you), absorb yourself regularly in nature, work on developing a wider perspective that we are all in this together and no one is perfect.

When individuals and organisations wake up to the fact that wellbeing is both a source of longevity, insight, service and happiness; and co created in an adult negotiation about the way work is experienced; we will all benefit.

Have a happy conference at the Health @ Work Summit 2014, on the 12th June!

In gassho Genkai

Claire Genkai Breeze is co founder of Relume Ltd, co author of The Challenger Spirit – organisations that disturb the Status Quo’ (2011) and was recently voted as one of the top ten Most Influential Thinkers in HR Most Influential Awards 2013 conducted by HR Magazine.

About Claire Breeze

Claire is an award-winning speaker and thought leader, co-author of 'The Challenger Spirit - organisations that disturb the Status Quo' (2011)' and co founder of Relume Ltd. Her research and thinking has been published in professional magazines such as Coaching @ Work, HR Director, The Edge and HR Review. She is currently working on her next book with the working title 'Your Body Doesn't Know What You Earn', which focuses on resilience, wellbeing and mindfulness.

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