In this guest post, VMLY&R’s Katie Dally (pictured below), says it’s time adland got serious about the benefits of work-life balance…
For years we have been talking about the need to achieve greater work life balance. Why it’s such a challenging notion is because we spend at least 60-70 per cent of our lives at work, so how there could ever be a genuine sense of balance, which by its very definition means a situation in which different elements are equal, is nothing short of mathematically and seemingly practically impossible.
It’s time to start reframing this notion from balance to one of integration. We need to fundamentally shift our behaviour to integrate our home lives and our work lives, so that they can co-exist more harmoniously as one. After all, we are not a different person at work, to who we are at home – we are wives, mothers, husbands, fathers, leaders, colleagues, continuously. We don’t lead double lives, we lead one life. Our responsibilities blur and so too do the expectations that come with our roles in life.
True integrated wellbeing happens when we bring business, life health and relationships together – think one header per circle in a venn diagram. When they overlap you have found the sweet spot. I find the best way to achieve integration is by design. Literally, design your day by the hour which ensures you get to cover these three circles with intent. From deep work time, to coffee sessions with friends and a gym session to boot. If you can pull your version of this off daily, your energy and enthusiasm for life improves because life feels, well, properly integrated.
Good managers and organisations respect that the days of 9-5 are over. Once the foundation of trust and a solid work ethic is established, employees need to be freed up to deliver their work in a way that plays to their strengths. If that means the morning person is in the office at 7am but gone by 3pm, so be it; if that means meditation becomes the norm for some to start off a meeting successfully, so be it; if that means 90 minutes uninterrupted mind sprint time is sanctioned daily to actually get some work done and people can’t attend every meeting as a result, then so be it. I’m not suggesting this means free reign to take advantage, what I am suggesting is we need to seek out a way of enabling people to be their best selves and no one size will fit all.
Across the board, businesses are certainly making inroads and are increasingly committing to embracing future of work practices, today. That said, I do think more work needs to be done to find a new way, a new normal to best deliver what is expected of us and have fun doing it, otherwise what are we really doing it all for?
Our industry is one of the worst offenders when it comes to promoting the importance of wellbeing; our reputation of burning the candle at both ends precedes us. This makes little sense when people are our currency. It’s for this reason that I want to acknowledge the work that Fleur Marks and the WPP Wellbeing Team are doing to tackle this industry stigma head on. This small, but passionate team is supporting people across our group of 80 companies to reimagine what becoming the best version of themselves looks like, so that each individual can show up walking the talk everyday.
In addition to behaviour and mindset change to achieve integration, we should also consider the importance of nourishing ourselves on the inside. Our business has a long-standing culture of grabbing a glass of wine after a long day and then pushing through until all hours before doing that important presentation on 1 hours sleep. Many of us are learning that fueling ourselves with the right sustenance is vital, that means ordering salads and protein balls rather than pizzas and sweets for meetings. You’d be amazed at the effect small dietary changes can have on your productivity.
For those of you who want an ecosystem boost hack, get on a probiotic a day. Many a mum or dad out there will know this is the key to their kids holding up at daycare through that dreaded germ infested winter season. It all stems from the microbiome, look after it and it will look after you.
So let’s get to work on creating a wave of change by rejecting work life balance in support of integrated wellbeing as our new normal – starting from the inside out.