Redefining Work-Life Balance

The Changing Nature of Work

How we work is changing. Technology is ushering in new possibilities. New generations enter the workforce with different expectations. With all the changes in play, there are some things that stay the same: the desire for fulfillment and purpose, the need to balance the professional with the personal.

Mason Donovan tackles these challenges in his new book, The Golden Apple: Redefining Work-Life Balance for a Diverse Workforce. Mason is managing partner at The Dagoba Group, a New England-based diversity and inclusion consultancy. I had the opportunity to ask him about the changing nature of work, including generational changes, balance, mindfulness, and inclusion efforts.

 

Success Tip: Balance improves your relationships, satisfaction and productivity.

 

Achieve Greater Satisfaction with Balance

Is work-life balance possible? Why is it so important?

Work-life balance is possible.  There are a lot of gurus out there that say it is not in order to capture your attention in this crowded field.  Emphasis is on the word balance.  If you ever walked on a high beam or anything else in which you needed to physically balance yourself, you most likely fell off a few times.  Your balance will fall off to one side or the other.  It is important that you anticipate for these moments of imbalance, so you have a plan to get up.

Achieving balance will make you more productive in and out of the workplace.  It will enrich your relationships and allow you to achieve greater satisfaction in life.

 

“Alignment of purpose allows for the elimination of distractions.” -Mason Donovan

 

How is finding your purpose related to achieving balance?

In the book, I tell the story of executives on an interpersonal retreat climbing a mountain.  Their primary purpose was to reach the summit without talking about business.  The objective was for them to get to know each other better personally and share an accomplishment.  Without spoiling the story, their original goal is interrupted because they lost their purpose.

In order to know where you are going in life, it is important to understand why you are going there.  Work-life balance is no exception.  Only a handful of people actually stop and reflect on why they get up every day to spend the majority of their waking life in an organization.  When that somewhat simple-but-necessary reflection does not take place, you will default to acquiring things and making money, which almost inevitably leads to the golden handcuffs phenomenon.  You work more because you have to make more money.  You make more money so you can acquire things that require you to work more.

There has been a societal shift in why individuals engage in work.  Part of that shift is due to generational changes, while for others it was their awakening due to the Great Recession.  Aligning your personal purpose in life with your work and organizational purpose will help you eliminate all of the noise that does not fit that purpose.  Balance comes from awareness.  In The Golden Apple, I provide simple exercises to not only develop, but also align your purpose at each level.

 

“Work is not a four-letter word.” -Mason Donovan

 

Understand Generational Change

What are you finding in terms of generational changes? What are the new generations demanding at work? What’s the best way for current leaders to respond?

It is important to note that we are all unique individuals but are influenced by our shared group memberships such as our generation.  Clumping everyone together and solely defining them by generational attitudes can overgeneralize any particular person.  It is helpful to understand the influence of generational membership, which will give you a starting point when discovering their individuality.The Golden Apple

Each generational cohort has a defining moment in the shaping of their shared psyche.  When it comes to employment, for Generation X it was the broken promise of the organizational loyalty which fostered the cradle to grave jobs their parents subscribed to.  Millennials were highly influenced by the Great Recession which ushered in massive layoffs, foreclosures and lowered career expectations.  These defining moments create a collective influence on how cohorts view the work-life equation.

PwC’s NextGen study uncovered a generational shift when it came to work and personal engagement for their Millennial population.  Uncovering this shift was important to them since by the year 2020, they expect that fully 80% of their employees will be Millennials.  In short they found this group was far less likely to give up their personal life today for the prospect of a partnership down the road.  The value structure was shifting more towards experiences than acquiring things.

Interesting to note is how this new value structure is also being reflected in Baby Boomers.  The Great Recession robbed them of the ability to retire early as they saw their investments fail.  It required them to reassess what they valued in life: time or things.  Most have decided to choose to have life experiences in the time they have remaining.  Downsizing acquisitions and upsizing experiences has become the trend for this generation.

Leaders need to better understand the value they offer to their current and future employees.  By integrating work-life balance into their overall package, they will increase engagement and retention.  They should look at this challenge through a holistic lens so they do not perceive it simply as a specific generational or gender issue.  Policies and practices should be geared towards an inclusive solution that impacts the overall workforce.

 

Study: long working hours made 58% more irritable and over 25% depressed.

 

Mindful Practices

You May Live Past 100! Living in the Age of Longevity

How Long Will You Live?

When you’re young, you feel like you will live forever.

Soon enough, you realize that time is both fleeting and speeding by at a faster pace with each passing year.

Living to age 100 was once incredibly rare. When I was a teenager, I regularly visited a local nursing home, and it seemed most were in their 80s. Today, I know many people in their 80s and even 90s not only living on their own, but thriving, going to exercise classes, and even still driving.

100 just doesn’t seem impossible anymore.

Turns out, it’s not only possible, but now so common that it’s changing everything from the way we think and plan our lives.

Written by two professors from the London Business School, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, explores the implications of living much longer than we ever expected.

Here’s one statistic the authors shared with me that shocked me:

 

Research: More than half of millennials will live past 100.

 

Amazing.

Written by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, this book is full of surprising statistics and the implications for all of us. I recently spoke with author Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics at the London Business School about their new work:

Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission. Oldest age by which 50% of babies born in 2007 are predicted to still be alive. Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission.
Oldest age by which 50% of babies born in 2007 are predicted to still be alive.

The Implications of the 100-Year Life

You open your book, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, with compelling statistics and proof. We are living longer and the implications are sweeping. Are we in the age of longevity?  What are some of the more obvious implications?

It’s well known that we are living longer, and there are more old people. However there is less understanding that there is strong evidence that each generation is living longer than the previous and is in general healthier for longer. Life expectancy has been increasing by about 2-3 years every decade for the last 200 years. That means that each generation lives around 6-9 years longer than the previous generation. There are major debates about how long and at what rate this can continue, but the signs are that best practice life expectancy is continuing to increase.

In our view people mistakenly take the fact that we are living for longer to mean that we are older for longer. They focus more on aging than longevity. However longevity means we have more years of life and will restructure our life accordingly. Many of our economic, financial and social patterns of behavior are based on an outdated view of life expectancy of around 70. We need to restructure to account for the likely possibility of a 100 year life.

With a long life we will see the end of the dominant model of a three stage life of education, work and retirement. Just as the twentieth century saw the emergence of new stages such as teenagers and retirees, so longevity will bring about whole new stages of life. Further in a multi-stage life, lockstep comes to an end. There is only one way to structure a three stage life – education, then work and retirement. There are many ways to structure a multi-stage life, so we will see the end of a strong link between age and stage. In the future you could be an undergraduate and be 20, 40 or 60. You could be a senior manager and be 30, 50 or 70. To support this multi stage life we will, and are already, seeing changes in how society structures itself. When life extends you reach previous milestones (such as marriage, having children, etc.) at different times, and ages are redefined.

 

“The antithesis of vitality is stress.” -Gratton / Scott

 

Work-life balance may become more important. What’s emotional spillover and how do we positively impact it?

If you take a 100 year life seriously and calculate how much you need to save for a pension, it’s likely that people will have to work in some form into their late 70s.  This is why we think a three stage life can’t survive as it involves a 60 year career. While working for 60 years may solve your financial problems, it does nothing to solve the deeper issues. We emphasize that living a good life requires investing in intangible assets – productive assets such as skills and knowledge, vitality assets such as health and friendships, and—of growing importance—transformational assets, the ability to deal with change and transitions. While working for longer solves your financial problems, it means your productive, vitality and transformational assets are run into the ground. This is why we think a multi stage life with breaks and transitions is inevitable, with people spending time in between stages recuperating and rebuilding their strength and talents. A longer career also means that at some points you may well take on a traditional job where financial assets are your main focus but at other points you will seek jobs that better balance life and work.

 

Stress at work is associated with a 20% increase of heart disease.

 

The Value of Education

Talk about education and how its value may change.

If working life extends over 60 years, it’s hard to think of any education you can learn at 20 that can last that long and remain that relevant. This is especially true if you believe the stories of technologists and the rise of Artificial Intelligence.  Either because your industry becomes obsolete or because your knowledge becomes outdated, you will need to seriously reinvest in education at different stages later in life. Perhaps this education will in part be provided by traditional sources, but it is also likely that we will see new organizations develop to fill the gap.

It is an interesting question then what you should learn when young if you know that at some point this knowledge will become obsolete. One common sense prediction is that when young you learn how to learn, how to think creatively and critically, and how to evaluate from a broad-based disciplinary perspective. Then you may add to this with some detailed specific technical knowledge knowing, however, that in a decade or more this may become irrelevant.

 

“In the end, long life is the reward, strength, and beauty.” -Grace Paley

 

Saving for the 100 Year Life

What are the implications for retirement? It seems daunting enough today to save with current lifespans.

As currently understood retirement is a product of three stage life thinking. It is already being undermined with a century long downward trend in those aged 65 staying on at work reversing itself. More and more people are either working past retirement or working after retirement.

Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission

In a multi-stage life you will need to prepare not just for eventual retirement but also for career breaks and career transitions, all of which will require financing. Lifetime planning will not just be about end of life planning.

Retirement will still exist, e.g. a time when you stop work, but it will occur later. At traditional retirement age you will see more varied behavior. Either people will choose to carry on in their existing roles and continue to earn if their skills and firm allow, or they will break and do something different. We are seeing a rise in entrepreneurship in people in their 60s. Becoming what we term “an independent producer” is an interesting option. In this stage of life you do something that blends work and fun together, earn just enough to cover your expenses and so keep your savings intact.

 

“If you want to live a long life, focus on making contributions.” -Hans Selye

 

I found the Downton Abbey effect fascinating. Would you share more about this and its implications? 

How To Be Present and Productive When Time Is Short

Introducing the 5 Gear Model

 

Do you struggle with work-life balance?

Do you find it challenging to maintain relationships while also driving for results?

Do you take time to recharge your battery?

Find yourself at home when at work and at work when at home?

 

“Work on your weakest gear to improve your ability to influence others.” -Kubicek/Cockram

 

Be Present and Productive

If you are constantly juggling priorities and trying to keep it all together, you may not just need time management. You may need a new model. One that increase confidence and allows you to lead from a position of strength.

Jeremie Kubicek, credit Justin Westbrooks Jeremie Kubicek, credit Justin Westbrooks

Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram are cofounders of GiANT Worldwide. Both are leadership experts, authors, speakers, and experienced in culture change. They have just written a book. 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time which is a terrific read, full of nuggets that will stay with you long after you finish.

Jeremie is a personal friend and someone I admire. He recently answered some questions about the new model they have developed.

 

“Secure, confident leaders are those that people want to follow.” -Kubicek/Cockram

 

Use 5 Gears to Increase Your Productivity

Jeremie, your newest book, 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time, coauthored with Steve Cockram is a thought-provoking new model of work-life balance. How did you develop it?

The book is a metaphor that we created to explain what we were seeing in each other as we were forming our company several years ago. Steve is British, and we had just moved to London, where I was learning how to smoothly drive a left-handed stick shift vehicle. As I lunged and ground the gears in our vehicle I used the analogy of why we are so often in the wrong gear at the wrong time socially and why we tend to disconnect and run people over figuratively.

Copyright Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram, Used by Permission Copyright Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram, Used by Permission

 

Perform a Leadership Reality Check

Find Your Balance Point

Clarify Your Priorities

 

Are you experiencing the highest level of clarity and confidence possible to pursue your goals? 

Do you feel inspired and fully engaged?

Does your life feel like it is in perfect harmony?

 

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” –Brian Tracy

 

Most of us experience times when we feel like we are on top of our game and other times when we need to rebalance our priorities. How can we consistently stay in the place that works for us?

For many years, I have been a fan of Brian Tracy, one of the world’s top speakers with audiences exceeding 250,000 people each year. He is the author of over fifty books, including the bestselling Psychology of Achievement, which remains one of the top resources for personal development. His daughter Christina Stein is a speaker, author, and psychotherapist who focuses on work-life balance and female empowerment. The father-daughter duo teamed up to write Find Your Balance Point: Clarify Your Priorities, Simplify Your Life, and Achieve More. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Christina about their new work.

 

“True happiness is about serving others.” –Christina Stein

 

How to Achieve True Balance

What is a balance point?

We are all unique individuals with our own values, vision, purpose, and goals. Each one of us has a different way of achieving true balance. Each person experiences true balance when he or she is operating at their own unique balance point. Your balance point is a state of alignment that you experience when your actions and efforts are a true reflection of your values. It is from your balance point that you experience the highest level of clarity, commitment, strength, and confidence to pursue your ambitions, both personally and professionally.Christina Stein

You want your efforts to have power, strength and meaning. In order to move forward with focus and intention you need be sure footed and feel grounded and balanced. In martial arts before you throw a punch you get into the ready stance so you know you are at optimum grounding to have the most power and resistance. Your balance point is your own unique ready stance for life.

 

You say we can achieve a false balance. What is this? How do we recognize it?

False balance is incongruence with your actions and your values. There are a couple ways to recognize when you are experiencing false balance:

  1. You feel a little knot in your stomach all the time, and you’ve become so accustomed to this feeling that you think its normal.
  1. At the end of a busy day you sit down and feel as though you spent the whole day doing things and yet accomplished nothing.
  1. You are constantly feeling guilty about what you are doing and think you should be doing something else.
  1. Nothing inspires you. Your life is monotonous and boring, every day rolls into the next and few things hold meaning for you.

When you are experiencing false balance you may do things to try and feel better, things associated with feeling good and aimed at achieving balance, but it is not a one size fits all. Things bring balance to us because they address a specific need, and unless you identify what you need you cannot successfully identify the solution.

 

“Your values lie at the core of your character.” –Tracy / Stein

 

Put Your Own Happiness First

How to Create an Extraordinary Workplace

The Best Place to Work

How do you create an extraordinary workplace?

How do you turn a group of strangers into a community of friends?

Why should a company pay people to play?

 

Usually, when I read advance copies of book manuscripts, I wait to talk about the book until it is released.  In this case, I couldn’t help but talk about this book for the last few months at conferences. Now that it is finally available, I am excited to introduce Ron Friedman’s new book The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace.

 

BOOK GIVEAWAY

For your chance to receive a free copy of Dr. Friedman’s new book, The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, do any of the following:

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If you want to build a winning culture and encourage collaboration, this book provides a blueprint.  If you are designing a new office space or updating an old one, this book is a must read.  But what surprised me most about this book is the many insights it provides for leaders at all levels.  If you want to be promoted at work, you will want to read this book and follow its guidelines.  And, as a CEO who is privileged enough to lead an organization that regularly hits the Best Places to Work in IT list, I can tell you this book gave me numerous ideas.

The book’s author, Ron Friedman, PhD, recently answered my questions about his research and work. He is a psychologist and the founder of Ignite80, a management consultancy to help leaders build extraordinary workplaces.

 

Research: You can predict employee satisfaction by the amount of sunlight entering their floor.

 

3 Ways to Improve Space

From a workplace design perspective, what are the top 3 ways to improve space for a positive impact?

BPTW Cover 1The most important principle is design with the end in mind. Think carefully about the tasks your employees are going to be doing and provide a space that empowers them to do their work more effectively. At many companies, people are placed in the identical work environments regardless of their job function, and this is a missed opportunity. It’s why so many people feel that they need to come in early or stay late to get any work done.

A second consideration is encouraging people to personalize their workspace. In The Best Place to Work I talk about organizations like Etsy and DreamWorks that provide their employees with a budget for customizing their workspace when they first join.  It’s a wise strategy.  When we have the freedom to shape our environment, we experience a sense of personal control.  One study found that people are over 30% more effective when they’re encouraged to personalize their workspace.

 

Research: People are over 30% more productive when they personalize their workspace.

 

A third recommendation is to invest in informal social spaces, like outdoor picnic tables or a café-like break room. The idea is to encourage colleagues to get together, even when they’re not talking about work. Workplace friendships are vital to our performance, and lasting friendships aren’t established when we’re in formal meetings.

 

Paid to Play?

One of your chapters says that we should be paid to play. You say that the childlike manner of play can improve our creativity. How can we use play and exercise to improve our workplace?

There’s a business case for giving employees the flexibility they need to exercise. Over the last decade, scientists have uncovered a range of benefits from regular workouts that extend far beyond being healthy or looking good. Exercise, research tells us, can also make us more effective at work.