Work/Life Balance

by Jo Anne Nelson on February 21, 2012

I was in a meeting recently where someone said that to be an employer of choice, they had to provide work/life balance. I couldn’t disagree more.

I know this flies in the face of most traditional conversations today about the value of work/life balance. The challenge I have is that calling it ‘balance’ indicates that in some way, we will be able to find a sustainable circumstance that allows for equal or near equal engagement in life and work over time. Or that at any given moment we will have ample time or attention to give to both.

I believe this is a fallacy and that it produces stress when we aren’t able to achieve it.

There are times when one facet of our lives needs more attention than another. And these needs cycle over the months and years, depending on what’s happening in the personal or professional parts of our lives.

There is an issue to be addressed here. I just don’t think that balance is what we’re looking for. So what’s the alternative?

Last year I was an invited guest at a conference sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers (thanks Chris Simmons!) where the focus was not on work/life balance, but work/life fit. I find this to be a great distinction.

The idea of work/life fit sets a different expectation—that I can find the right alignment among my priorities and the depth of engagement required in each for where I am at any particular point in my life. Logically, it is likely that the priorities and needs I have today may well be different three years from now.

To lead my life responsibly and to accomplish the level of contribution and fulfillment I aspire to, I need to continually evaluate the best fit between work and life for me at any point in time.

In a world where talent is the key differentiator among competitors, becoming an employer of choice is essential to gaining and sustaining market leadership. Helping people find the best work/life fit is not only key, but mutually beneficial and competitively advantageous. When I make it easy for top talent to say yes, regardless of their particular circumstances at the moment, we both win.

Do you have the flexibility to adapt to the realities of global competition for talent and offer a diverse range of options for work/ life fit in order to become a talent magnet? Your answer will directly impact your ability to win, both today and tomorrow.

Jo Anne Nelson

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