Twice a year we plan meetings for the Future Workplace Network – a network comprised of heads of HR and Learning for Fortune 500 companies. Each meeting is unique in that they are all hosted by a different member company in a different location. Two weeks ago Cisco hosted the meeting at their HQ in San Jose and while running around doing what we event planners do, I caught Cisco’s SVP of HR, Jill Larsen, say the term work-life balance doesn’t really exist. It’s about how you manage your consecutiveness on terms that work for your life. I quickly ran to my laptop, typed it in a note and knew it would come to play in a blog I had been pondering about so-called work-life balance.
I have recently resented the insinuation that there is a perfect balance between work and life, particularly when said life involves small humans. I have yet to hear a working-parent croon about how they’ve found the sweet spot of this so called balance. Usually it’s quite the opposite of a frenzied list of what has not been fulfilled on the home front or guilt for having to leave their work team early because of family obligations. It’s for these and many many other reasons I’ve just plum given up on the idea of balance. For me it’s about figuring out what works and what is actually feasible and then setting clear and achievable intensions. I think Jill Larsen’s use of the phrase “managing your consecutiveness” is ingenious because it doesn’t say when you’re home don’t be at work or when you’re at work don’t be at home (because let’s face it, actually achieving this singularity is nearly impossible when we’re tied to four different devices at any given time) but rather it says to manage the logical sequence of the things you’re doing in such a way that it best works for you and those around you.
In my case, this means answering the two most crucial emails in my inbox between 7- 8 AM when I get the brief but magical 8-10 minutes where both my children occupy themselves quietly. The other 50-52 minutes I then leave the inbox and tender to their needs. Admittedly, choosing this sequence of events may mean skipping a shower until later in the day but sometimes the clients have to come before personal hygiene!
But in all seriousness, let’s stop using the term work-life balance like it’s an achievable position on the life scale that we can not only find but somehow stay on without teetering too far one way or the other. Instead, take the time to figure out what works for you and those in your life and if at some point you find its no longer working, change the sequence!