As individuals we are changed by significant events in our lives. Equally when a major event happens on the planet, we are changed not just individually but collectively too. Sometimes planetary events change the circumstances of life for many, many people. Such as the World Wars, the Great Depression, 9-11, the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis. Today we are living through another such event with the pandemic. Though this has had a dramatic effect on some people, for most of us it has been more of an interruption or an inconvenience. But what it has done is caused us to reflect more deeply on our lives and in particular our work.
Even before I started to teach NLP, 15 years ago, I believed there is no such thing as Work Life Balance; there is only Life. Work is something that you do in your life. Your life should not be ‘balanced’ against your work. Find something you enjoy doing, and from which you can earn money, and you will never work another day in your life. Easy to say and not always so easy to do, you may think. But having spent time at home, away from the hubbub of the office, and without the dead time of commuting, more and more people are re-evaluating their life choices. In the USA and in the UK, people have been resigning from their jobs in droves, The Great Resignation as it has been dubbed. As a result, corporations are having to face up to the additional demands 21st century workers are making.
I think that both employers and employees need to understand this change through the prism of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). The pandemic has allowed a huge number of people to sit back and reflect. From an EQ perspective, everything starts with self-awareness. You cannot overcome a problem if you don’t know that you have it in the first place. Being at home 24-7 for months on end has allowed people to contrast this lifestyle with how they lived before. This navel gazing has led to what some commentators are calling Pandemic Epiphanies. Even if people were happy with the concept of work-life balance before, they are now thinking that it should at least be life-work balance instead. Many employers didn’t see any drop off in productivity during the pandemic, in fact some studies showed that it actually went up by as much 5%. As employees become more emboldened by their Pandemic Epiphanies, employers will need to put themselves into their employees’ shoes to navigate profitably through their changed mind set.
Fundamentally I don’t think that most people mind working to earn money. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, you can challenge yourself, you can learn new things, you can progress, and you can meet new people. I believe that what people have been reflecting on is just how much extraneous detritus like, poor communication, office politics, difficult bosses, travelling, poor pay, and inflexibility, they have had to put up with at the same time. To go back to work, for the same money, and put up with these things again is just too much for some people.
The solution for employers is to make the work environment reflect a higher level of all round EQ. Which means better communication, more empathy, less politics, more flexibility, and better leadership. Emotional intelligence won’t solve travelling issues or instantly increase everyone’s wages, but if you as an employer can solve some of the other issues then your work force might be a little more forgiving, and as a result be more likely to stay.
A final thought for everyone, employer and employee alike. If your basic needs were met what would you do? If you had health care, food, a house, and something left over for a little entertainment. What would you choose to do with your time? How many people would do the work that they do now, without the need to make money? Could we imagine a society where that was possible? And could we then create one?
“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” Arnold Toynbee