Yipeee…I get my first guest blogger and unbelievable as I find it myself – it’s none other than the dear hubby. Yesss, he stole my thunder and started writing some time back and I admit – I am liking it! So am sharing something he wrote recently on work-life balance and how he executes it beautifully ( I hate to say it but I agree he does!).

Here’s the post :

I am happy my post, ‘Vulnerability’ touched so many. Another aspect, I want to touch upon is Work-Life Balance (WLB). After ‘My Manager’, WLB is mostly the next big reason for people quitting their jobs. Or for that matter, in the weekend social gatherings, WLB is the favourite topic of small talks, after weather. Starts with the harmless question, “Aur kaam kaisa chal raha hai”, (How is work going for you) and very soon it is WLB that is being cursed and beaten to death.

As the saying goes, there is no one definition of WLB. It changes from person to person. It changes for genders. It changes depending on your age and stage you are in your life journey. However, one thing is for sure, irrespective of all the above nuances, this spreads like common cold amongst employees, when business is not doing well. And someone may say, “But business never does well…” ……sad reality for the most of the listed companies.

To build on my take at WLB, let me borrow two technical terms from the FMCG industry….. Numeric and Weighted Distribution. These terms are used to measure the ‘distribution success’ of brands/products……..For those not associated with FMCG, ‘numeric’ is the ‘quantity’ of distribution and ‘weighted’ is the ‘quality’ of distribution. Both are important and have a unique role to play. There is, however, a broad consensus, WD is more ‘efficient’ and often rated higher than ND.

As I moved to ‘manager’ roles, I often asked my team to be equally clear about the ND and WD of their life, just as they were for their business. To be more specific, between ‘office/work’ and ‘home/family’, which one were ND and WD for them. And I never suggested that former should be ND and latter WD or vice-versa. The idea was to be clear for self, to minimise dissonance about Work-Life Balance (WLB).

I was also fortunate to have worked under great managers. There were few, who opened up on their personal vulnerable moments to me. One of my very senior managers said something that stayed with me. This was at least 15 years back……. “Do not make the mistake that I made. I didn’t realise when my daughter grew up.” Another senior manager confessed how he got into work stress, to an extent that he had to go for a TMT at a very early age in his career. Or 8 years back, another senior manager was sharing his feelings, ‘How he too never realised when his kids became teenagers. His work did not allow him to take out time for them and later when he wanted to make up for that, they did not have time for him.’ These were only a few glimpses from their lives and it will be foolish of me if I give anyone of you the impressions that they failed themselves with family, home or health. They were humble and vulnerable to accept and share some aspects of their selves.

I give due credit to these and other managers for influencing and reinforcing my thinking on WLB. But with all humility, fortunately, I was always clear about my ‘ND and WD of Life’. For me, work/office was ND and home/family, WD. My ASM days at Colgate Palmolive, I would finish my day by 5 pm to reach home, to my parents by 6 pm. At Pepsi, there was hardly a day (barring the annual corporate festivals of 5-year planning and next year planning), when I would not reach home by 6 pm to 7 pm. At Mars, my day mostly ended by 5 pm. Thanks to my wife, Shilpi (best vacation planner), I would avail all my 30 PLs, never worked on weekends and holidays. Our son (now 9) believes Valentine Day and 28th Aug (no marks for guessing, our marriage anniversary) are annual national holidays. I also insisted on getting annual leave plan from all my direct reports. Honestly, I never had any WLB problem, in any of the organisations that I worked for, in my 20+ years.

To put it in perspective, what also helped me, apart from clarity on priorities, my intentionality of actions and efforts I made. I was the first ones to reach office at 7.30am. I kept things simple, decided fast and said firm ‘No’ for things that were not necessary (obviously after quick sense-check from other key stakeholders). My fixation for insisting on calendar invites for meetings was the butt of jokes with some. I made it a point to not only start meetings on time, more importantly, FINISH them bang on time. Fortunately for me, my team also that wanted to reach home early. Even our monthly team dinners used to be over by 10 pm. Finally, I big time delegated, while creating an environment of safety. Not only did it help me manage my WLB, it also made me develop talent. But that is a separate topic.People who know me and have worked with me may relate to all or some of the above.

WLB may come with its share of trade-offs. It helps to have the appetite to handle those and at times ignore the noise around you. I have no regrets and was happy to be a part of management team at 40. Some may say I could have grown faster. I thank them for their wishes. I said ‘No’ to a 6-month short term assignment in New York. This was 10 years back. Caveat….. I was to go alone. Shilpi and I can stay away for a day or two, maximum a week, forget about 6 month STA to the USA. Some of my managers were honest to tell me that decisions like these could be career limiting. Or that while I was right in availing all my PLs, my absence was noticed by senior management. Well meaning and well intended messaging, but it never distracted me from my Life ND-WD priorities. There were also those murmurs, “You appear very busy”, or “You may join us for tea break”, or “We missed you at last night party”.

To be fair, I have also come across people, who have ‘work/office’ as their WD and family/home’ as their ND. You would see them in office till 10-11pm, on time for a meeting at 8 am next day, guzzling down 10 cups of coffee during the day, seemingly enjoying every moment of their time in office at work.….. The key is they are also clear about their priorities…work, work, and work. And that is why they too never had any complaints about work-life balance. Most importantly, I found them and even others respecting and accommodating people like me, giving me my time and space. It was equally important for me to be clear, consistent and org-savvy in asking.

As I said earlier (this is my view and I may be wrong), the onus is on us as individuals to find our WLB.  As individuals, and teams we need to take ownership of our work and life. It is easy and tempting to blame or look for someone from outside to come and solve things for us. Next time, when you find yourself troubled on WLB, do a check on the ND & WD of your LIFE. Or reach out to me. Happy to help.