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Finding A Balance: Work vs. Life

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I'll never forget when I was a young child my father taking phone call after phone call to assist his customers during our family vacations. I also remember as a teenager my mother answering our home phone at 4 a.m. some mornings to help resolve disputes between her employees. At the time, I wondered why my dad didn't just let those calls go to voicemail, or why the ADULTS at my mom's office couldn't just "get along."

Now, after years as a human resource professional, I know that sometimes colleagues don't see eye to eye (and never will), important emails need answered even if you're sick, and customers don't operate (and shouldn't have to) around your family vacations. These experiences have made me aware of the importance of work-life balance, and I do my best to set boundaries between my professional and personal life. Unfortunately, many other workers feel as if they are unable to turn-off work once they leave the office.

A 2010 public opinion survey conducted by StrategyOne noted that, "43% of American workers said their company is not doing enough to address work/life balance issues." It is the job of talent managers in all industries, including education, to work with staff and organizational leadership to ensure appropriate work-life balance.

Last week, I ran across an interesting article published by BBC News about Volkswagen's efforts to improve work-life balance for their employees. The company has agreed to stop its Blackberry servers from sending emails to some staff members during non-work hours. Servers will only allow emails to be delivered 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after work. Volkswagen decided to institute the policy after many employees expressed concerns that their work life was interrupting their home life.

I know that there are many dedicated educators who work late nights and long weekends, even during the summer, grading papers, developing lesson plans, attending professional development workshops, tutoring students, meeting with parents, and participating in other school activities. However, we all must remember that to be our best at work, we also need rest and down-time. No one can be "on" 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Creating a culture that values work-life balance can help strengthen employee satisfaction, engagement, loyalty, morale, productivity, and commitment, which in turn works to retain high-performing employees, decrease absenteeism, and help the organization operate more efficiently.

Bradley Honan, Vice President of StrategyOne noted that, "significant numbers of American workers are asking companies to step up to the plate and address [work-life balance] more effectively. Workers are being asked to do more with less, and the strain on them is clearly showing."

How could your school district do a better job of promoting work-life balance? What strategies have you seen work successfully to improve work-life balance in schools or other organizations? Please, share your thoughts!

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