Balance

Some people think that life balance is a thing of luxury, something you pursue when times are good…that we should work like dogs  to remain indispensable in this unpredictable economy. But wait a sec. Weren’t we were already working like dogs, before we added in the fear of losing our jobs? Here’s what got me going on this subject:

In the post Keep Your Job: A 10-Point Survival Guide at CNNMoney/Fortune, Anne Fisher quoted some sobering numbers:

According to a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management 60% [of US employers] plan to cut headcount. Challenger Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm that closely tracks layoff statistics, predicts 1 million more pink slips in 2009, and says the job market may not bounce back until 2011.

She goes on to share 10 excellent points offered up by executive coach Deb Bright but #7 made me gulp:

For now, forget about work-life balance. A major preoccupation when the economy was humming along nicely, “having time for outside interests has to go right out the window now,” says Bright. “You need to concentrate on doing whatever it takes to make yourself indispensable.”

If you’re listening with one ear, it might sound like logical advice, but a little trickster lives inside that suggestion. Work-life balance isn’t solely about balancing work and play. It’s about how you work, what you value, finding ways to match your values to your employer’s values, and accomplishing workplace goals with clarity and finesse.

In contrast, here’s what FedEx Kinko’s employees found out about themselves thanks to DM News and the Work-Life Balancing Act:

Nearly half – 47% – of those polled in FedEx Office’s Finding Better Balance survey say finding a better work/life balance is even more important to them in 2009, compared to last year.

The survey, released today, queried 501 full-time, U.S. workers. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, 58% believe it will be more important to find better work/life balance in 2009, compared to 46% of those age 35 to 54, and just 30% for the 50-and-over group. In addition, 86% say they plan to actively pursue this better balance this year.

“As we start a new year, it’s common for employees to take stock of the last 12 months and evaluate their priorities at home and in the office,” said Tracy Brightman, senior vice president of human resources for FedEx Office (formerly FedEx/Kinko’s), in a statement. “Proper work/life balance is a key factor in employee satisfaction and productivity.”

Among those surveyed, 49% said they planned to take advantage of all vacation time in the new year; 44% said they would prioritize projects, and 42% said they would create a weekly to-do list; 41% said they would leave work at a reasonable hour and 36% said they planned to take lunch breaks on a consistent basis.

Lack of Balance Adds Pounds to Your Body, Mind and Spirit

Forgetting about balance is rooted in fear. And I’m guessing that a large proportion of people recently laid off we’re working like dogs to be indispensable. With so many more people on the brink of losing their jobs, fear needs balance to be a useful emotion.

If you’ve been working hard at becoming indispensable, it’s likely that you’re working late, powering through lunch, skipping workouts, ditching networking and playing with friends. You’re probably also missing soccer games and not too thrilled about doing homework with your kids, not to mention being coherent enough to perk up your resume and research possible career opportunities. If this is true for you, you’re going to be scrambling to make up for lost time if you lose your job.

Living in balance in a down economy is essential, not only for your wellbeing outside of work, but to assure you remain agile and flexible and capable of making good, values-based decisions in and about your work. As an example, if you were interested in maintaining a competitive advantage and being in shape to meet the next opportunity with confidence, wouldn’t working out make great sense? Who feels agile and flexible and confident with 20 or 30 extra pounds? And what about the burden of weight you’ll carry in your mind and spirit?

Work smart and strategically. Make sure what you choose to say yes to at work serves the company’s larger goals and your career goals. Less is more. And the only time more is more is when it’s more of less.

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