Monday, June 18, 2007

Work Life Balance

This weekend I headed up after work on friday to the Sawtooth Mountains north of where I live with 3 others to climb a great route called the Chockstone couloir on a peak called Grand Mogul. It was a short trip, tiring but extremely satisfying, creating great memories. I get out as often as is feasible, but with a busy job, and a growing family its important to make your free time count.

Recently we have been having a lot of discussions about what our company values are and should be. Values are important no matter how big or small you are. Values create the guardrails by which you work, and make decisions, just like your personal values guide life decisions.

One of the values that many companies speak to and try to have is 'Work Life Balance'. I never really liked this term because of its ambiguity. It seems straight forward, but it isn't. Its the term balance that bothers me. Balance is in the eye of the beholder. What is balance to one person is imbalance to another. Balance implies evenness, but we all know that is never the case with any business in the new economy. Work effort volumes eb and flow like tides of the ocean, and just like weather patterns there are periods of calm as well as hurricanes. In my experience, I find that this term of 'Work Life Balance' is often a buzzword thrown in for appearances, with little thought to what it means, nor how different employees will perceive it. In the end most people are unhappy, because their perceptions of what it means is different from everyone else's.

We wanted something in the same vein as WLB inside our company, battering around terminology such as work life control, and others. We eventually settled on 'Work Life Passion'. Not a huge departure, but subtle enough. The term passion might almost be considered more ambiguous than balance, but to us it says better what the culture of our company is and what we want it to be as it grows. People need to be passionate about their work inside the office and their pursuits outside the office, and strike a balance that makes sense for the company as well as for them. It in no way implies a perfect 50/50 split, and thats ok.

Stowe Boyd often talks about the concept of flow, and your time being a shared space. In the new economy that is often the case. The line between work and home blurs for most, but for most that is better, allowing for a more full life (ie - going to your daughters school play mid day) Also with his definition of flow, time is not constance - it moves faster or slower based on situation. Think about when people talk about being in the zone with sports and time almost slows down as the ball approaches. This flow time is what passion is all about.

Time across work and life is never balanced, but with passion and good use of the time you have allows you to create the balance that is right for you.

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