Everyone has a different work-life balance, but we give the impression that there is a formula that exists that we should apply to every single employee. The trick as a leader is to recognize this, and not to assume that because you like to work one way that other people do, too. Remember that you’re setting the organisational culture through your behavior.
First, let’s talk about email.
The mobile device is a cool thing if you love Tinder, but it’s also the biggest challenge to work-life balance that exists. We’ve all done the “I’ll just check and see whether…” routine. And, as a result, you forward on or reply to something that then arrives in someone else’s inbox who is also “just checking” and so the whole cycle moves on.
As a leader, if you send emails over the weekend you’re setting the tone of expectation. You may be happy to work in your downtime, but that’s your choice; don’t impose it on others. I was talking to a CEO recently who made a conscious effort to save any emails that he did over the weekend in his drafts and only send them on a Monday. He’d realized that his role was to set the tone.
Next, it’s deadlines, which has a specific global resonance.
If you work in the U.S., you’re a minimum of five hours behind Europe (not to mention the rest of the world). It means anything sent from noon onwards shouldn’t be expected to be read until the next day. And if you send something on a Friday afternoon for a COB deadline on Monday, you’re telling someone they should work on the weekend.
If you are a global business, you work with global time differences. Get an app that shows you the different time zones, or have them printed on your wall. Look and learn what the time is for your recipient, and ask yourself before you send something whether it’s reasonable. After all, there’s more to life than the east to west coast difference.
Which brings me to my final point, meetings.
My clear view is that any meeting scheduled outside of normal working hours should be voluntary. Regardless of the diversity issues raised, it’s just plain arrogance to assume that because you are happy to work irregular hours, others are too. And if you work in a global business and expect business to happen around the clock, it means you might be the one setting your alarm for 4 a.m., rather than assuming that someone else will.
But then, you’re the schmuck that called the meeting, so it’s your fault.
Throughout the month of July, our resident talent advisors have been discussing issues around work-life balance. Subscribe to Talent Advisor to stay on top of the latest blog posts and discussions around unlimited PTO, modeling good work-life behaviors as an employer, working from home, gender differences and PTO, maternity and paternity leave, and much more.