Work-life balance as a goal?
That’s what someone asked me and whilst it seemed a very noble target to aim for it’s also probably a tricky question to answer.
In this bite-sized episode I explain why as well as some thoughts on how finance professionals can approach this question.
Andrew: [00:00:00] Hi everyone, and welcome to this week’s Monday memo. Now, I hope you had a fantastic weekend and looking forward to the week ahead. And I suppose in terms of thinking in the week ahead could be an interesting. Topic to discuss was actually a question raised to me from a fellow finance professional, who mentioned to me that they were thinking about having as one of their goals for the year have a goal to have a better work-life balance.
[00:00:25] For their team members and their finance. Organization. And who wouldn’t want that goal? So very noble initiative. It’s a win-win for employees, employers, you hear about a good work-life balance in theory, should have a number of positive effects. Less stress lower risk of burnout, greater sense of wellbeing, more engaged workforce saving on costs, less absenteeism more loyalty the workforce, more productive team members.
[00:00:54]And we’ve probably seen a growth in recent times towards embracing flexible working, remote, working flexible schedules. Yup. The name of having a better work-life balance dressed up, a bit with managing through a pandemic or epidemic So does a work-life balance really exist or is even having the goal of a work-life balance, a meaningful goal to pursue as finance professionals? But before I go any further and trying to answer those questions, to level set some perspective on this, because at the moment in particular having this conversation around work-life balance is a very privileged one because for those of us out there listening, a lot of us might feel that.
[00:01:42] Work-life balance is an elusive goal. But if you are feeling like that, do bear in mind that a lot of our colleagues in finance teams in the leisure and travel industry might’ve actually lost their jobs. I heard some conversations, some teams. Losing up to 80% of their finance professionals and accountants in them.
[00:02:01] And for them work now is simply about being able to put food on the table for themselves and their families. So again, being in this position to have this conversation is a privilege. And if you are struggling to hit the goal, just remember that and bear that in mind. But is it the right goal to be aiming for?
[00:02:17]It does seem to be a very popular topic and you search for the term work-life balance on the internet, or even the hashtag work life balance. You’ll get a number of articles swinging back at you saying how to have a better work life balance. Top 10 tips. I’d having one or even how now the four day week seems to be the solution to actually help us achieve this elusive balance.
[00:02:39]And it’s often presented as a thing to achieve our goal to reach. Yeah. Once you’ve reached us, congratulations, we do, you’ve made it. You’re finally a successful human being and a finance professional.
[00:02:53] So there’s this fear out there that work-life balance or some sort of equilibrium where a person is able to equally prioritize the demands on their career as well as demands on their personal life. And some of the common reasons that might knock that out of kilter out of sync is increased responsibilities at work.
[00:03:13] Having to work longer hours. I We’re well used to, to those demands from year-end audits, period and budget cycles, getting reports out to management particularly when the data is arriving late, AB are, having increased responsibilities at home, which has sets in you. Kids got to go to the parents association meeting or are trying to care for a sick relative number of different reasons why it might knock it out of kilter.
[00:03:40] But I actually do have a couple of issues with those reasons, given for poor work-life balance. And the first one is, if you think about it, these are choices about how individuals, how we spend our time and also how our organizations can true choose to construct our work environments. And the second one is I always thought there was one constant in life or that’s what I thought I’ve been told.
[00:04:03] And maybe it feels a bit more of a constant in recent times. But that one constant is change, so aiming for balance isn’t achievable goal. Anyway that, that. Striving for momentary stasisis in a world that’s ever-changing could drive you nuts. And supposing we ever did.
[00:04:21] Yeah. To that elusive balance student, just for that moment in time, would smart. We’ll have to probably know for sure to, something’s going to come along and on bottom set and then we’ll be back triaging, all those issues and problems again, and striving towards something that, again, for a long period of time, it was probably not going to be.
[00:04:38] Sustainable or even achievable. So what can you advise a fellow finance professional who wanted to have this noble goal to have a better work-life balance for himself and his team? I don’t feel well-placed to answer it. But that’s what I’ll be invite guest mentors onto the show. And as practically as Monday memos, try and do a bit of research, get some tips.
[00:05:01] And the best research I came across was from two researchers. Ioana Lupu from ESS CC business school and Myra Ruiz Castro from the university of Roehampton in the UK. And they argue that work life balance is more of a cycle as opposed to an achievement. They did a study in 2020, so it’s relatively up-to-date and they interviewed 80 employees at two London-based firms, a London and England equal number of men and women.
[00:05:34] And ages were between 30 and 50, which broadly corresponds a lot of our audience listening and And there was another thing as well that I think they all had at least one dependent child, as well as working in middle and senior management roles. So interesting group to interview and,
[00:05:53]and as much as it might seem from that demographic the interviewees had a lot in common. The was something important that separated them. About 30% of the men and roughly half the women reported that they resisted, actively resisted working longer hours. The other respondents, meanwhile said they worked long hours because they thought that’s what successful professionals should do.
[00:06:18] And interestingly enough, when I started my career in finance, I thought exactly the same thing that your success was a function of how many hours you put into the job. So once the researchers looked at those who rejected the long hours and found that they actually had similar strategies for maintaining this balance between work and life.
[00:06:36]Things that they did is they employed something called reflexivity. So that’s the ability to reflect and question the assumptions like the one of having to work longer hours we call it maybe self-awareness and then not only that, they took that self awareness put in place, those steps that we talk about with guest mentors on the show sort of steps, we can all follow to adjust the thing standing in their way of that competent work-life balance.
[00:07:01] And that’s the important thing I think is they stopped in question their circumstances. They reflected on their emotions, their situations, they pinpointed specific roadblocks to the work-life balance. We, there’s an expression taking stock. It’s about getting that mental head space back again, to get that better clarity of what they really want from ourselves, their careers and identify how they can get there, how to implement.
[00:07:27] Systems around us alternative ways of working and living and these researchers broke it down to five steps. Now I don’t want to go through each of the five steps here just in the interest of time, but essentially it was largely involved reflecting on what they were doing, considering alternatives, and then making a decision, a constructive decision to move forward.
[00:07:49] And very similarly, like when we bring the gas mentors on to strengthen the numbers show. Most of them have about 25 years experience in finance. And one of my favorite questions ask them is what’s excited you most about your current work. And I think that’s the key is they’re looking at what and focusing on what gives them the most energy about their work or whatever their endeavor is outside of work as well.
[00:08:12]That’s the common trend that sticks out is they light up and they devote a lot of time to doing the things they love doing because that’s, what’s going to give the best results for them and their organizations. And I think a common theme to what they say as well is that it’s not about how you divvy your hours up between work your kids, your family, your chores, the gym catching up with friends, giving back to your communities are even finding the time for that reflective or reflexive thinking.
[00:08:38] Because even if you do manage to split those hours evenly between each of those activities if you still haven’t got a full appreciation of the underlying sources of stress or emotion then,
[00:08:51]then you might still be, how would you say subconsciously thinking about those things causing you hassle or grief when you’re putting time into other things? So for example, A lot of us who maybe have gone back to site and come home from work at the end of the day, or have been remote working from home and then maybe go to a different room to go and have dinner with our families.
[00:09:16]What we might find is that, although we’re physically say sitting at the dinner table or being there with our families mentally, we might still be processing things that have happened at work. And so we’re not present. And may be calling it a question of work-life balance. Isn’t the right thing. Maybe it needs to be called out for what it is that work life balance is acting as a proxy to having a sense of fulfillment and contentment and whatever we’re doing,
[00:09:42]but but maybe we’re calling it work-life balance. And that’s why I suppose the question was posed to me that way as a goal. Is maybe it’s because it’s our individual responses of how we might approach our choices with work in life, how we spend our time how our organizations might provide us better environments to do more of the stuff that is fulfilling and makes us more content and more excited.
[00:10:05]Yeah, maybe that’s why we probably give it the wrong term. And again, it does seem to be two sides to the equation, right? If one side has unrealistic expectations and no matter how hard the other side works, they will never quite make that balance work.
[00:10:22]And I think that’s the challenge I’ve been able to advise on these sorts of things, because ultimately this idea of work-life balance and what people find a sense of fulfillment and enjoyment and contentment in. It’s means different things to different people. And after all we lead different lives.
[00:10:40] And that’s why I think it’s really interesting to bring dementors onto the strength and the numbers show so that they can share with you their stories. On how they’ve tried to find a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment and what they’re doing in finance, the challenges they’ve had, perhaps where they’ve made mistakes and it didn’t work.
[00:10:57]You know me in particular I’m big on sharing. My, my errors help avoid help. Some of you avoid going down similar, wrong paths.
[00:11:04]And another great thing is that’s a commonality of wherever we are in the world, as much as we have different lives. I think we’re all striving for very similar outcomes here particularly to get that sort of sense of enjoyment and meaning from water is essentially a fantastic career opportunity in finance.
[00:11:20] And again, this is a bright, privileged conversation to have.
[00:11:23]As I was starting or laying out in the context earlier. So look, hope you folks really enjoyed this week’s episode. If you did, please remember to share it with your friends and colleagues. You can subscribe on all the major platforms, iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon music.
[00:11:37] And as always, really appreciate you investing your time with us today. So until next time, take care of yourselves and let’s keep on building our strength in the numbers.