Work and Life: The End of the Zero-Sum Game

Early January is a time to take a step back and relax.  And it’s never a better time to assess our individual work/life balance.  Some interesting comments from an article from Harvard Business Review, Work and Life: The End of the Zero-Sum Game, that I have been reading:

Most executives still believe that every time an employee’s personal interests “win,” the organization pays the price at its bottom line. They consign work-life issues to the human resources department, where the problems are often dealt with piecemeal, through programs such as flextime and paternity leave

However, a small but growing number of managers are operating under the assumption that work and personal life are not competing priorities but complementary ones. In essence, they’ve adopted a win-win philosophy.

These managers are guided by three mutually reinforcing principles. First, they clarify what is important. That is, they clearly inform their employees about business priorities. And they encourage their employees to be just as clear about personal interests and concerns—to identify where work falls in the spectrum of their overall priorities in life. The objective is to hold an honest dialogue about both the business’ and the individual’s goals and then to construct a plan for fulfilling all of them.

Second, these managers recognize and support their employees as “whole people,” open-mindedly acknowledging and even celebrating the fact that they have roles outside the office. These managers understand that skills and knowledge can be transferred from one role to another and also that boundaries—where these roles overlap and where they must be kept separate—need to be established.

Third, these managers continually experiment with the way work is done, seeking approaches that enhance the organization’s performance while creating time and energy for employees’ personal pursuits.

The three principles lead to a virtuous cycle. When a manager helps employees balance their work lives with the rest of their lives, they feel a stronger commitment to the organization. Their trust redoubles, and so do their loyalty and the energy they invest in work. Not surprisingly, their performance improves, and the organization benefits. Strong results allow the manager to continue practicing the principles that help employees strike this work-life balance.


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