The Balancing Act of Work/Life Balance in the World of HR

I wear many hats as a people & culture professional: strategic advisor, problem solver, sounding board, behaviour changer… but I’m also a friend, a partner, a daughter, a sister. There – I said it. I have a life outside of work!

While I love the variety my chosen profession brings sometimes it is really tiring. Tiring because in people & culture you can feel like you’re a million things to a million people, and it’s impossible to meet all of their needs all of the time. Then, at the end of a day filled with 10 urgent matters and 20 incredibly important ones, I roll on home to my family and try and switch my brain to At-Home-Renée (note: she doesn’t get as much done as At-Work-Renée).

I often have this conversation with other people in our industry – just how do you balance the two when it is so easy to prioritise a job you love over everything else? We are the best at preaching the importance of work/life balance but in my experience we are often the worst at balancing the two.

I’ve gone over to the dark side a few times, getting obsessed with checking emails from the time I wake to when I went to sleep, that little ‘ping’ sound sending shivers up my spine. But I came to a realisation that I did not do my best work when thinking about the office all day every day, I didn’t lead by example, insisting on responding to weekend emails the second they arrived, scheduling work travel in the weekends so not to impinge on my ‘productive’ time. I do my best work when I’m happy, when I can dedicate the time required to important projects and be honest with my colleagues about what I can, and cannot, reasonably take on.

I meditate (I know, it sounds terribly new-agey but I swear by it), I exercise, I don’t have my email notifications ‘pop up’ on my phone and I’m getting better about working reasonable hours. And do you know what I’ve noticed? I’m more productive, I produce better results and I’m a nicer person to work with.

It is really hard to fight the urge to ‘just’ do a few extra hours – because as we all know that is a perfectly reasonable, even required, thing to do occasionally – but as soon as it becomes the norm, then I know I’m straying in to dangerous territory.

How can I extol the virtues to the managers I work with of the importance of happy, healthy employees if I myself am not one? How to I promote the idea of encouraging employees to normally work a regular work day if I can’t do it myself?

I don’t believe being overworked is just dangerous to the person (increased risk of cardiovascular disease anyone?) – but it is also dangerous to role model this behaviour, particularly if you’re the guardian of good workplace practice in your organisation.

I’m always looking for ways to both increase my understanding of how I manage this balance and how I can promote this balance within my organisation which is one of the reasons I am looking forward to Dr Adam Fraser’s presentation at the AHRI National Convention on HR: Loving What You Do. Dr Fraser’s presentation promises to give HR professionals practical tools to switch between different roles and environments with less anxiety and friction.
The author will be a guest of the AHRI National Convention and has been asked to write up their thoughts on the event.

This article was originally published on the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) website.

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