March 08, 2022

Making life-work balance sustainable

Bravely Pro Justin Shaddix shared a quote in our recent blog, “How Bravely Pros Envision the Future of Work,” in response to the question, “If you could shift one mindset about the workplace, what would it be?” Justin’s response reflects what he’s seen as a coach over the last two years: “People are very busy and drained. No one has time, everyone has too much to do, and folks are always looking towards next week when things ‘will finally slow down’ (guess what, they never do!) I’d like to shift the busy mindset to one of sustainability and, gasp, fulfillment/enjoyment.” We followed up with Justin to dive in deeper and get a fresh perspective on aiming for the ever-elusive “work-life balance” that will support employee engagement and retention. 

Justin said, “In the past year, [people] have become more and more fatigued and frustrated. Everyone is talking about being busy, and burnout numbers are going up.” We’re lacking a clear division between work and life as we shuttle from our desk to the couch to the bed, on repeat, but what appears to be having even more of an impact is the lack of meaningful social time, spontaneity, and fun. We shouldn’t underestimate the relationship-building, morale-boosting power of the social interactions we once took for granted. As companies learn how to build a remote culture, people will continue to struggle with burnout and isolation. With greater individualized support and more compassionate leadership, though, will come a more sustainable work-life balance.

Should work bring you joy? 

For myriad reasons, people look to their work for purpose and fulfillment. In some ways, the effects of COVID-19 flattened our lives to a two-dimensional version of what they were before. “There’s a lack of balance in our lives at large, right now,” says Justin. “In an ideal world, you’re able to find something about your job that brings you joy, meaning, and purpose. Sometimes it’s apparent, and sometimes it takes time to find that meaning and purpose, which is why I support the concept of job crafting.” 

Job crafting can help define a pathway to success for people in the workplace. Job crafting is looking at the tasks that make up your job and connecting the dots to find more meaning in their work. Sometimes it means that the role you’re currently in is a stepping stone. When employees have a broader vision in mind for where they want to go, viewing their current role as an essential element in getting there can contribute to feeling a sense of progress, growth, and learning. “Building your career to go forward takes effort. If you just go about the status quo, you might not find that joy,” Justin says. 

Leaders have a responsibility to ensure that their company’s culture allows growth and development along an individual path to professional success. Justin explains, “Leaders have a bird’s eye view of what the team needs, and are able to see opportunities for employees that might fit an individual’s skills and needs. For [individual contributors (ICs)], the career ladder doesn’t quite exist anymore. It’s more like rock-climbing now with a shifting wall of obstacles.” While ICs can work to be agile and flexible, leaders can prioritize open dialogue about roles and needs. 

Bravely can offer an objective, third-party listening ear to support your people through the moments that matter most. Our Pros are exceptional at helping employees navigate tough conversations and identify their actual needs. Sometimes, employees need a place to vent and feel heard. After just one coaching session with a Bravely Pro, 89% of employees report a more positive outlook on their future at their company, 92% of employees say they’ve gained a new skill or strategy, and 93% feel more likely to proactively address a workplace situation.

Building a culture centered on balance 

“An organization’s culture should celebrate breaks and time off. Research shows that people come back re-energized with new and innovative ideas after a period of downtime,” says Justin. Leaders have a responsibility to model this behavior: “Younger professionals are looking to the top for modeling.” If people don’t see their leaders taking time off, they won’t feel safe or comfortable enough to take time off when they need it. Try shifting from an “us vs. them” mentality of managers and direct reports. No person is an island — ask your teammates how you can support them and be open to hearing their needs. 

“The River of Things To Do is never going to stop, but we can pause and stop ourselves. We’re not going to get washed away by the river if we can just pause to assess the priorities and make more conscious decisions about the direction we’re heading,” says Justin. Build systems for yourself that honor your limitations. 

Changing the game

Organizations need to shift to a more collaborative mindset that also honors their employees’ limits. Company cultures reflect a company’s values. If companies want to evolve into a more human-centric way of being, they must support employees in finding their own needs, limits, and desires for doing meaningful work. By focusing on building community and an authentic sense of belonging, employees will become more engaged with their work when they feel seen and heard. 

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