Work life balance, why you’re never going to succeed

Work life balanceThe term work life balance is a well known one. Typically coming out of the mouths of executives who travel a lot, work late and have work commitments outside of office hours – or out of the mouths of their irate wives. The reason that people fail so often with this balance is the fact there is no way to perfectly get each side of your life to fit into a neat compartment separate from the other. If there is I haven’t seen it, perhaps aggressively OCD people could make it work. I think most of us are doomed to fail if we set out to achieve this. I strive for a healthy relationship between work and life and I prefer the term ‘Work Life Integration’. Usually I hate buzzwords and terms that are created when other perfectly acceptable terms already exist, but I read it in a book somewhere and it resonated with me. Work is a massive part of my life and I try to integrate it with everything else. Rather than build walls between these areas I tear them down and blur the lines between work, family, play, life and everything else.

Work Life IntegrationI love to travel with my family and I do this whenever we get the chance, which is only during school holidays now. Perhaps kids need to implement a ‘School Life Integration’ philosophy so we can go on holidays more often! I never set an out of office message, nor do I bother to tell anyone I’ll be away unless there is something urgent we are working on and timezone becomes a factor. I take my laptop, phone, tablet and can always connect to our accounting system, job system, internal databases and inventory system through the cloud and all our files are in dropbox. Using these tools I can always manage to keep up and even get ahead with the day to day work I need to do. Usually I spend an hour or two clearing out my emails and attending to regular work tasks, while the wife and kids are playing around the a pool or relaxing somewhere. I occasionally send a cheeky photo of me working with a beer or glass of champagne around a pool or on the beach back to the office. But this is kept to a minimum to reduce staff turnover. 🙂

I have a saying… “The World is my office“… which means I am always available to do work and interact no matter where I am on the earth. The only factor to consider is regular mobile data or wi-fi access to make the devices and services I rely upon more than just fancy paperweights. And when we become a space faring species future generations may say “the galaxy is my office”.

Being the business owner I have an option available to me that some people may not. When I travel for business I try to time it and arrange it so my family can come with me. Granted there are some fairly tourist unfriendly places I visit and my wife politely declines the invitation but there are often some great places to stay and things to see. I typically meet for several hours during the day and occasionally have a meal with someone while I’m away, but there is still so much time to enjoy the new location with my family also.

At home I always help out in the morning getting the kids ready for school. No one in my household including myself is an early riser, so it is always a rush to get uniforms on, lunches made, bags packed and earth shattering problems resolved before heading to school. I’m available for quick phone conversations during this time and regularly check my emails on my phone to shoot quick replies to any requests from my staff. When I eventually roll into the office around 9.30am I can tackle the meatier tasks. Come 5:00pm it’s time to leave so I can spend some time with the wife and kids again across dinner, bath time and bed time. These are some of the best moments in life and you don’t want to miss them, so work just has to be more flexible. Whenever there is a school event or my wife needs help with something I schedule it like any other business meeting or appointment.

Flexibility in working is paramount if you wish to integrate work and life. You have to be set up to work remotely if you want to actually be productive while away from the office. You may have to look at your mobile devices, communication systems, business software and hardware. There is a cheap option in every category to put an old desktop or client and server based system into the cloud to enable seamless access from anywhere with an internet connection. When I made the conversion to these cloud system the side effect was to empower myself and all my staff to be able to work remotely with ease. In addition to this there was a notable reduction in the costs of our computer software and hardware. Cloud based systems are designed to be profitable once they scale to have lots of users who pay relatively little.

Working remotely also enables me to be more productive with my time. Rather than having a whole day to do something I sometimes only have a few hours as that’s what I’ve allocated. It is amazing what you can get done when you set yourself a challenge. There are no prizes for the number of hours you work remotely only the output and results you generate so there is more incentive to use your time wisely.

What are the two most important things a business must have?

What I have learnt is that all businesses should at least have these two elements. If you have nothing else going for you make sure you have these and you will stand half a chance, the rest can be built on this foundation.

1) Good Organisation Health

Positive business cultureYou have to have a good culture in your business. The organisation needs to be a healthy cooperative place where people enjoy working. To do this you need to get rid of the bad apples. They are like a cancer that will spread through your business and destroy it from the inside. Think about where you work, do you have anyone that you and the organisation put up with because of how long they’ve been there or because people think they are indispensable? You probably do, and the best thing for the organisation is to kick them to the curb. Through all levels of the company you must be able to communicate effectively and everyone should be able, willing and offering to help each other out. You have to have people that are ‘bought in’ to the way the company operates and are on the same wavelength as the leader or leaders.

2) Good Strategy

You need to understand what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to do that. This is the company’s strategy. But you have to think about another questions first. This is something that I don’t think a lot of businesses consider.

Who are we?

Business strategyYou need to consider what the identity of your company is. What makes you different from your competitors? Once you understand where you have comes from and what makes you tick, you can them move on to where you want to go. An overall vision should be developed. A kind of grand statement about where you want to position yourself in your market. Something that everyone can strive to achieve. From here you can develop more specific objectives that will guide you on your way to achieving that vision. The final steps are communicating this strategy to the entire organisation, reviewing your progress at regular intervals and tweaking the details as necessary.

With these two items under control you will have a solid foundation to develop and implement the myriad of other elements for success.