The delicate balance of work and life

Hanna Baker, The Daily Record Newswire

Anyone who peruses the business section of a bookstore or reads management-focused blogs commonly will come across information about the benefits of maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

When thinking about “how to win work,” we often focus externally — interview techniques, social media strategies, and relationship building dominate the discussion. While these are all essential items, they tell only part of the story. The truth is that we have people putting together those complex documents, building those relationships and selling the firm.

Ultimately, just as all the books, articles and studies point out, if these people are awake, aware and happy, they will be at their best — and in return, not only stay with the firm, but also win work for it.

Work/life balance is a common topic in our SMPS roundtables. How do we achieve it? What kind of support do we need from our employers? What does it look like? Anyone who has been paying any amount of attention in the last five years completely understands the benefits of work/life balance, at least logically. But with the tough economy and the demands on our jobs to keep things rolling, what are the logistics of it all?
The first step is working in a firm that understands the benefits of a healthy work/life balance. Kate Walker of GBD Architects commented, “I work hard and push through deadlines; then, when I’ve got some downtime, if the snow’s a fallin,’ I head to the mountain. In all seriousness, GBD is supportive of the ‘work hard/play hard’ mentality; they support me when I need to take a break, as long as deadlines are met and I’ve got some backup when I’m out. I know it’s not like that at many firms — it’s one of the many reasons I enjoy working at GBD.”

Unfortunately, even though the firm is on board, it doesn’t guarantee the perfect balance – anyone who juggles multiple, often unpredictable deadlines, knows this too well. Sarah Bell of THA Architecture said,
“Balance is rarely attained each day – you have to look at a whole week or even month and try to dedicate equal energy to your job, to your family, to yourself. And you will not always succeed, and that is OK. Just say no … to overcommitting yourself. You can only do so much, so setting realistic expectations is key.”

Katherine Robinette of David Evans and Associates stays proactive. “I really try to hold the line on internal deadlines, so I’m not working late (or from home) because of late/missed deadlines,” she said.
One effective strategy is to put items with specific time demands into a schedule. If you have a massage or acupuncture appointment or a softball game to get to, it will help rein the workload and make you more efficient.

Also, try to delegate tasks, at home as well as the workplace. Maybe reach out to the neighbor kids to mow the lawn or take Sparky for a walk. How about someone to clean the house? Tami Fuller of DOWA/IBI Group combines exercise and quality time with her children. She has introduced yoga to her daughter, and now they practice together.

So, as this year comes to a close, I challenge senior management to encourage and support staffers in their work/life balance goals. As all business owners know, their staff is their biggest asset — and we want those assets to be healthy and rested to decrease mistakes, increase efficiency and ultimately bring in work.

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Hanna Baker is a marketing and business development consultant at Fantail Consulting and the professional development director for SMPS Oregon. Contact her at 503-894-2424 or hannabaker@yahoo.com.

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