This week we focus only on the individual responsibility in achieving work-life balance. The organisational responsibility will be discussed in my next article. The scenarios mentioned are from some of my coaching conversations and are printed with the ermission of the individuals/organisations. (1)‘Oh this is what I love to do; life is work and work [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Work-Life boundaries in Sri Lanka


This week we focus only on the individual responsibility in achieving work-life balance. The organisational responsibility will be discussed in my next article. The scenarios mentioned are from some of my coaching conversations and are printed with the ermission of the individuals/organisations.

(1)‘Oh this is what I love to do; life is work and work is life. I don’t mind sacrificing a bit. My partner understands. Success demands great sacrifice’.

(Ask your partner how he/she genuinely feels about your unquenchable passion for work that makes you neglect your relationship/marriage).
(2) ‘This job is almost like my destiny, a calling; can you believe it, I am doing what I always wanted to do. What is burnout for one person is a sense of euphoria for another’.

(What areas in your life are abandoned due to your inner blindness that this is a way of life? How many others are compromising on the life they want to have to make your dream a reality, constantly?)

(3) ‘This has taken up most of my life. I can hardly sleep due to the stress I carry at work. What if the order is not delivered on time? What if we can’t meet the targets? I am constantly tired and sleepy at work’.

(Your body is crying out loud for rest).

(4) ‘I feel I have to constantly check emails on the phone as I am scared to miss out on something urgent to do. My daughter would ask me something and I would not hear’.

(Discipline yourself to switch off from work. The fear could be due to your manager, performance management and reward systems in the company or your sheer ambitiousness and impatience to be in total control at work all the time).

(5) ‘I check the phone to check office emails at night but end up on FB. I’ve caught myself just scrolling down to see the updates of friends. Not that I read any articles that’s posted there. It has become a habit and I guess this is how I relax now. But how did I relax before FB? My partner can’t stand this and says that I don’t listen.’

(Your partner is right).

(6) ‘I get angry when the kids fight in the night when I plan my work for the next day, so angry that I scold him even though I know that they are still very young. I think it is the stress that is driving me crazy. I was never like this’.

(Stop! Something insidious is creeping in. Try and nip it in the bud and you will not regret it).

(7) ‘I have missed the birthday of my wife and I have to work around my work responsibilities before I contemplate on taking a break for our anniversary, even though it falls on a weekend. I am a responsible guy and I have to do what works best for everyone even if she could get upset’.
(Ask your wife how she feels. Prioritise. Ask what is important to you? Work? Marriage? Both? Then try to balance so that people who are important to you will not always give in and work around your clock all the time).

Like it is with nature, be it an eco-system or an individual organism, life and growth are sustained through balance. Work- life balance is dynamic and as the different contributors on the scale change, the equation changes with the healthy expectation of regaining a level of balance again, given the current state of affairs. What if it doesn’t? Yes, life could still go on but on the edge, on the rim, on a constant state of need for something that is missing. Individually this could be food, rest, exercise, time for oneself but also socially and relationally speaking, companionship, love and excitement that is not always rooted in work but in relationships and in the company of loved ones.

Work domain factors and family domain factors affect the state of balance at a given moment of time. Work domain factors involve type of work, demands of work, working hours, leave, vacations, flexibility, unhealthy work patterns (eating at the desk, working while eating or skipping meals, sedentary work styles, sacrificing exercise for work), travel time to work and back, and strenuous field work. Family domain factors include financial stress, responsibility for the dependents (both children and parents and their needs) and quality of the support by immediate family, extended family and, most importantly, one’s life partner. Balance is also dependent on one’s sex, as social expectations (hence the different roles they need to play) are different to males and females.

Personality is another variable that determines how we approach and achieve balance; some of the personality factors are high internal drive and ambitiousness, need for power, need to be in control and on top of everything, emotional control and resilience in the face of stress. Work-life boundary is further moderated by overall work culture, work relationships, support from the organisation through policies that protect the wellbeing of the employees, resources, supportive bosses and teams.

A personal confession with myself included, examples of ‘spillover’ are in plenty; spillover from work to family and family to work. This imbalance impacts both the person (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social and relational health) and the organisation (performance, job satisfaction, job commitment and stress).

Work-life balance is elusive as it changes periodically. Your tipping point should be decided in terms of age, life-stage, overall purpose during that life-stage and the long-term goal in life and how you prioritise both work and family in the quest of this long term goal. The balance required by a young executive entering work straight after university is different to a balance required by a father of three young children who is also a senior manager in manufacturing. The balance required by an entrepreneur, who wants to build many businesses, is different to a banker who aspires to become a director one day. Finally and most importantly, balance should also be evaluated in terms of relationships with your significant-other and family/communities you belong to. Like in work, there is a return on investment when it comes to relationships with the spouse and children; the more quality time you invest, the better the quality of your relationship/marriage and the upbringing of your children.

Taking time to be with our loved ones and simply living life will inspire what you do at work and how well you do it. We can’t be doing a good job if work is all we do at the cost of the significant others around us. Most of us confuse having a career and being successful as having a life worth living. Talk to some very successful people in their retirement age who had been single-minded about their career and career alone. If they tell you genuinely about their take on success without being blinded by their own deceptions, you’d know why I wrote this article. Driven by ambition, passion and drive, they are all very instrumental in life but learning how to regulate them is more important as it brings balance, hence success in all areas of life. You work to live and however interesting/important your work maybe, your family is an integral part of the purpose you fulfil and the meaning you seek in life.

(Rozaine is a Business Psychologist specialised in organisational culture analytics and HR Coaching.
She can be contacted on #

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