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Why Work-Life Balance Is a Leadership Problem

A cairn in a field.

When it comes to work/life balance, there is no shortage of resources out there to help employees feel more in control of their workloads and complex lives. While this advice can be helpful, it often ignores the role leaders play in setting expectations that can make employees feel overwhelmed.

Over on Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath (who wrote the popular New York Times article Why You Hate Work) outline the ways in which leaders can undermine attempts at work/life balance, often without even realizing it. Here’s an example many of us can relate to: how often to check and respond to email:

"If leaders regularly send out emails in the evenings and over the weekends, it’s a near guarantee that their direct reports will feel compelled to read and respond to them. Often, leaders will tell us they don’t expect responses on weekends. But once again, their behavior speaks louder than their words. When leaders feel compelled to write emails at all hours, we encourage them to park them in their draft folders and push the send button during working hours."

Read the rest of the article here.

In short: actions speak louder than words. It’s always helpful for leaders to model the behavior they want to see throughout the organization.

That being said, it’s possible that what may seem like an out-of-balance work/life may actually be a great balance for the person in question. If my manager sends emails on the weekend, it might be because he left work early the day before. In other words, we also need to be mindful of context and still be comfortable establishing what balance looks like for us.

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by Allison Jones

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