UPfront: Work/life… er… navigation?

It’s been nominated by Australasian managers as their number-one leadership challenge – but does the term work/life balance really capture the problem increasing numbers of workers are facing?

This naming dilemma arose during discussion at recent Employment Opportunities Trust briefing with visiting work/life consultant and author, Juliet Bourke. Her conclusion: yes it’s “pathetic term” but nobody’s yet found better option.

“Balance” tends to imply that it’s zero-sum game – that is, devoting more time to family must mean devoting less to work, says Bourke. The reality isn’t that simple.

She prefers the “expansionist” theory whereby people who have lots going on in their lives get positive spillover from one life sphere to another. Then there’s the buffer effect whereby good things happening in one sphere (eg, family) can help buffer stresses arising from another (eg, work).

Fresh from major international conference on work/life issues in Florida, Australia-based Bourke outlined some of the latest developments (see next page) in what’s fast becoming significant workplace issue.

Work/life balance emerged as the top future priority for managers in recent research carried out by Australia’s Mt Eliza Business School. Its survey of 504 Australasian managers suggests they are reassessing their priorities in big way.

Achieving more balanced lifestyle was rated the number-one leadership challenge by each of four generational categories, from baby boomers to Gen X – making it the only leadership factor in the survey to cut across all age groups.

As to the naming thing, alternatives for “balance” offered by the EEO briefing attendees included “navigation” and “integration”. Any other suggestions out there?

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