Work+Life Fit: A Full Circle Moment Timely Once Again in 2021

Last week, a Society for Human Resource Management article “Remote Employees Are Working Longer Than Before” referenced a recent Robert Half study that found a majority of remote employees regularly report working weekends and working longer hours since the pandemic started.

As I noted in the story, “Managing the boundaries between work and life is a skill set people need and most didn’t have before the pandemic and still don’t. Simply handing an employee a laptop and downloading Zoom or some other collaborative software is not enough. Fear and uncertainty about the economy and job security also drive some of this behavior. Taken together—lack of boundary-setting skills, lack of alternatives to work, and fear—this is a perfect storm of overwork.”

While the clocks and walls that used to tell us when and where work ended and the other parts of life began have been disappearing for years, the pandemic destroyed whatever boundary was left.  As a result, the world has finally woken up to something I’ve been saying for nearly two decades. First in my book, Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You, and again in my second book, Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. People need the skills and tools to manage their work+life “fit” meaning the way they fit their work and life together both day-to-day and at major life transitions.  Fit: that one small word makes all the difference as I described in this 5-minute video we produced last year to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the publication of Work+Life.

That skills-based training has to be a major part of any digitally-enabled flexible work model.  Long-term success will require a culture of shared leadership.  You, your manager, and your teammates intentionally plan, prioritize, and coordinate how, when, and where work is best done.

The result will be an inspiring new level of performance, engagement, and well-being.  Not to mention the ability to attract and retain knowledgeable, valued employees that may otherwise leave your organization.  Consider this full-circle moment.

Recently, we were scheduled to meet with the leader in charge of manager development for one of our client organizations.  I heard this leader was a fan of our work, but I didn’t completely understand how so until we met.  As we logged onto Zoom she shared, “A few years ago, I found myself completely overwhelmed by work and parenting my twin boys, but I was determined to find a way to make it work.  That’s when I found your book.”

She then holds up her dog-eared, well-worn copy of Work+Life and continued, “I followed the steps, put a plan together, presented it to my manager, and I was fortunate she said yes even though that level of flexibility was not widely supported.  And I was able to keep working and care for my sons.  That was over a decade ago.  Thank you.”

Needless to say, my heart was so full after hearing her story. I also couldn’t help but notice the poetic symmetry. Because she was able to flexibly fit her work and life together, she was now in a position to bring that same skillset to the entire workforce as her organization charts a post-pandemic path toward high performance flexibility.

Yes, studies show people have maintained productivity during this forced, crisis-driven remote work experiment and they appreciate the flexibility so much they expect it to continue. But as the Robert Half study found, they struggle with the boundaries between their work and life and burnout.  Codifying flexibility in how, when, and where work is done into a post-pandemic operating model will require providing employees with the skills to actively manage the way their work and life fit together. That’s why 2021 will be the year Work+Life Fit comes full circle.

To help you and your colleagues get started, join me each week on Instagram (caliwilliamsyost and worklifefit), LinkedIn and Twitter as I share “52 Weeks of Work+Life Fit” #tweakit and #reset insights.

#Worklifefit Getting Started Tip:  Combine all your calendars – both work and personal – into a single calendar to see a snapshot of all your “to dos” in one place.  Set that up over the next two weeks before the new year and then we’ll take it from there!