Monthly Archives: May 2016

What Is a Community’s Role in Work-Life Balance?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post]

Community's RoleI’ve been wondering lately what would happen if the conversation about work-life balance shifted out of living rooms and conference rooms and into the communities in which we live. Think about the community you live in right now — how does it support you in creating the type of balance you desire?

One of the core elements of balance is finding alignment to values. So then, do your values align with those of the community in which you live? Does your community value education, health, kindness, innovation? Does it value growth, connection, diversity, equality? Does your community value balance?

Do you actually know what your community values? Most people don’t; I didn’t before I wrote this article. Most cities have a list of core values or at the very least a mission statement listed on their website. Just like a person or a company, a community (even a country) will express its values based on where it focuses time and spends money. Through looking at where a city invests time and money, a clear connection can be seen to a city’s actual values.

For example, this summer in Paris, nine of the city’s largest parks will stay open all night. Residents, most of whom value social connection and city landmarks, can now appreciate the beauty of the city and each other 24 hours day. Paris is spending an estimated half a million dollars on this project, a direct alignment to the values of its residents.

For the residents of Carlsbad, California, most of which whom embrace a life of activity (on land and sea) the city has committed that 40 percent of the area will remain undeveloped as open space in addition to the 50 miles of hiking and biking trails and 7 miles of beach access already established. Going a step further, Carlsbad is intentionally working to retain and attract companies that support and share the city values of health and wellness. Making it no surprise that life sciences, action sports, clean technology and health and leisure are some of the area’s top industries and employers.

This isn’t about cities needing to create new programs, it’s about people understanding (and choosing) a city for the programs they already offer, and then working together to maintain that which has been created. It’s also about people creating more awareness not only about why they work where they work, but also around why they live where they live.

A Pew Research Center study finds that most Americans will move to a new community at least once in their life. Make that move count. If you value social connection, pick a community that supports social events and business networking. If you value the outdoors — choose somewhere with open space and national parks. If you value knowledge and learning — pick a city near universities and research centers.

At the very least, consider how the community you live in right now supports your desired outcomes for the life you want to live. (And don’t be surprised to find me living in Carlsbad!)

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What Is a Manager’s Role in Work-Life Balance?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

Manager's role

Most managers are well aware that when it comes to this topic, there is no shortage of opinions about what work-life balance means, how to address it, and the impact it has on teams and organizations. More than that, most company training programs don’t prepare managers to talk about this topic because they know scripted, formatted conversations don’t work when it comes to managing issues related to imbalance. Each team, each person, each manager is different.

At most companies, managers avoid talking about the impacts of imbalance because they are unsure of how to begin, what to say, and in most cases have limited resources to support them (and their team) beyond an initial conversation. If a manager does begin a conversation with their team, the conversation can quickly get weighed down in the “pain points” – the impact imbalance is having on the team or individual (or both).

When the conversation is solely focused on the pain points, people get stuck on venting about the impact – things like workload, disengagement, too much email, too many meetings, limited resources, and unclear roles and boundaries.

In these types of conversations, it’s hard for managers to identify and/or address the root cause of the problem. This is one of the reasons why managers share that they avoid having these conversations – they are fatigued from all the complaining and feel powerless to help.

Other managers avoid the topic completely because they don’t really want to know the extent of the impact out of fear of learning too much and not knowing how to address issues that blur the lines between personal and professional support.

To that end, the most common work-life balance strategy for managers is to address the pain points one at a time with an endless sea of tips and tricks in order to try to ease the greatest pain of the moment in an attempt to create short-term stability until the next big deadline, fire drill request or reorganization.

The reality is both managers and individual contributors have accountability for creating balance. The only successful strategy to address this topic is to start talking about “it”, the work-life balance elephant in the conference room. Change can only begin when managers are willing to (and have the courage to) have a sincere conversation about the atmosphere of the team. When the focus shifts from venting about pain points or blaming others to really discussing the root causes and listening to each other’s needs, imbalance can start to be disrupted.

Talk about the greatest pain points first, and ask, without judging or criticizing, what is driving this behavior and how managers can begin to break the imbalance loop. Then, work as a team to set boundaries to support or protect team needs based on what type of support is required at this point in time, thus setting a foundation to build from issue to issue.

One role of a manager is to lead, and it’s difficult to lead cultural transformation if managers are not willing to talk about some of the real blocks to building a sustainable, profitable organization. Change will not happen overnight. These types of behavioral shifts take time to interrupt, and can only happen one behavior, one authentic conversation at a time.

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