In the first part of this 2 part post we covered why focusing on Work-Life “Balance” maybe the wrong thing to do.
We covered how work is an intertwined, integral part of our life - and how the best companies are starting to understand that integration and enrichment can be far better drivers of performance. If you haven’t read it already you can do so by clicking here.
Here we’ll cover the 4-Key Phases of Integration, why you should look for them in your next company and how you can start integrating them into your startup if you’ve got one.
As we covered last time - accepting the obvious truth that with “work” will come unavoidable hours spent away from the entirely non-professional part of your life - a technology company can drive an optimal “work-life” balance by building out and being creative with the following areas of growth support:
- Professional Growth
- Physiological Growth
- Social Growth
- Financial Growth
This can be summed up as the opportunity to be inspired, educated and empowered with additional responsibility. It starts with the hiring of intelligent, driven people who ooze talent and vision.
A few years ago, Google employees were asked on Quora what their favourite perk was and an overwhelmingly popular response was “the people”. The inspiration, energy and education that comes naturally from working beside smart, experienced and self-motivated people is invaluable.
From there, ongoing education is key for increasing the value of everyone’s “professional stock”; the value an engineer or designer brings to the market as a result of their breadth of knowledge and capabilities.
Developers should be encouraged and enabled to explore, learn and ultimately implement the most recent and most effective technologies available, leveraging opensource technology wherever possible. Designers and UX specialists should have the freedom to license and apply the tools that will facilitate the most efficient and most engaging mockup and workflow preview interactions.
Seminars, classes and other forms of interactive education should be readily available to those who are interested in expanding their skillset. There should also be time allotted for developers and designers to pursue initiatives about which they are personally passionate, but perhaps have been buried under other priorities along the way. Giving employees the explicit chance to champion secondary initiatives is a great way to facilitate rapid education, personal investment, and perhaps even spin off the next Gmail.
As a skillset grows, the employer must allow the employee to grow into a role that commands more authority and more autonomy, whether by explicit relative rank or by recognized responsibility. Generally in software, the flatter the day-to-day operations are, the better but that should never preclude the clear path of an evolving role within an organization.
As mentioned earlier, work has an impact on health, and health certainly has an impact on work. We’ve all struggled through a work day while fighting a virus or a conscious-consuming personal matter; it is not easy. That is why employers should try to provide access to programs and practices known for their restorative qualities.
Yoga may have gone mainstream, but its benefits have not lost their authenticity. The same goes for meditation and exercises in mindfulness which improve people’s ability to focus, relax and productively translate stress into clarity and motivation. Access to these kinds of guided sessions, either onsite or through affiliation, is an effective way to complement quality food and drink and a well-rounded benefits package that appreciates and promotes the priority of healthy life amongst employees.
Within the contextual walls of the office, this focuses on access to like-minded people who not only enhance an employee’s professional outlook, but their personal one too. This starts with an attentive, consistent recruiting and hiring practice. It extends to the facilitation of corporate events, hosting industry events, sending employees to conferences and supporting personal interaction between geographically separate locations. Making friends and having fun is an absolute must if anyone is to ever appreciate a true notion of work-life “balance”.
This is also the lens through which flexible work hours and flexible work locations should be considered. When working at a software company, face-to-face collaboration certainly provides its efficiencies, but more important is an attitude of “just getting it done and getting it done well.” Everyone and everything should exhibit a flexibility that allows, to a great degree, people to manage their own mix alongside the needs of their team. If there is trust in the skill and pride of the employees, then working remotely and managing a flexible or even generous vacation policy should not only be permitted, but encouraged.
Social growth is arguably the most important factor in effectively integrating work as a positive part of life, instead of a competitor to it.
We can talk about “perks” as long as we want, but at the core of any employment agreement is financial compensation. At the end of the day, the most common way of reconciling demanding professional responsibility is to feel adequately rewarded relative to the success of the company and to have the financial freedom to enjoy one’s personal time in the way one prefers. Competitive pay might be an oldie, but it’s a goodie. A company that is in the game for financial growth but fails to appreciate that incentive within the very people that enable its growth is likely a company that struggles to convince its employees that it is concerned with work-life balance.
Find an employer - or create a culture - that understands and reinforces these four dimensions and you’ll find work that you’ll be proud to call part of your life.