Q: For the past three years, as a senior manager in a multinational company, I have struggled to balance the heavy demands of work and my familial responsibilities. I know I need to do my best both at work and at home, and I would not want to lose on either front. I’m in the middle of an emotional breakdown and I fear that I might slip into depression soon, or contract a stress-related ailment. What should I do?
People, whether bosses or not, are susceptible to mental health complications in the face of difficulty, or inability to cope with competing priorities at work and life in general. Besides mental health, research suggests that senior executives are at a relatively higher risk of having cardiovascular complications than their colleagues, which highlights the import of having business leaders consider their own work-life balance a priority.
Work-life balance does not take the same definition for all people or situations and therefore, you will not find an over-the-counter solution for your situation unless you reflect on your particular set of circumstances. It might help to consider the following questions.
What are your greatest priorities and against which values do you rate them? Have you ranked your priorities, isolating the essential from the dispensable, both at home and at work? Are you bogged down by tasks that others can handle? Is everything as urgent or important as it looks? Do you account for your time and deliberately plan your days? Remember that achieving work-life balance has more to do with efficiency than mere reduction of workload.
When did you last say no to a request? Not everything that is good is right. While you need to support others, be careful about accepting every straggler’s workload. How do you handle the temptation to be occupied at all times? Switching off, from time to time, might give you a fresh perspective. Are you someone who takes great pride and feel accomplished by forfeiting your leave? Find a new Olympic sport. Have you considered adhering to annual medical check-ups? What about consulting a psychotherapist when you have trouble coping with life’s challenges?
Are you trying to do everything to perfection? Do not chase the unattainable. Instead, strive for excellence. And for projects that have little significance, a pass can suffice. You cannot win them all.
Finally, consider how you wish to be remembered, especially by your family. Few eulogies have the words email, projects, deadlines, pay slips, performance ratings, bonuses, cars and bank balances. Remember that life is larger than work.
Fred Gituku, Human Resources Practitioner ([email protected])