Why we need to stop talking about work/life balance & start talking about authentic workspaces
With the average South African spending 40 hours a week working, a third of our awake time, the term work/life balance has come to symbolise a behaviour where we are living more flexible lives. However, on closer inspection we can quickly deride this notion as a myth, a red herring, that is still based on the idea that our work and home lives occupy two opposing sections, divided by an invisible line that we can move to suit our daily activities.
Life is not a pie chart. Moving this line or even blurring it, means taking away from one slice and adding to another, by compartmentalising our hours into work, relationships and self care. Life is fluid, it flows towards work when on a deadline and shifts away from work when you are sick or training for a fitness goal, for example.
Striving for personal symmetry is a significant part of the change necessary to lead a holistic lifestyle but what is more important is how to recognise for yourself, or provide for your employees, a healthy workplace that is not only conducive to a happier environment but will also increase productivity and growth.
Paul Keursten, CEO and co-founder of Workshop17, South Africa’s most successful and fastest growing modern coworking locations, feels that personal workspaces should be a strategy built into the foundation of the HR company policy the same way that other benefits such as medical aid and pension are.
Keursten says, “If you’re working for a company, one needs to look at employee benefits through a new lens of care. At least for knowledge workers, the power dynamic has shifted and it now lies with the individual to choose where and how they will work.”
He continues, “You need to be inspired by your workspace and what it offers you. Inspiration leads to dedication which in turn leads to excellence. The days of company mediocracy are over and the most profitable businesses know how to build on passion to keep their employees feeling alive and make the most of their talents.”
Paul Keursten’s top three workplace takeaways are:
Attract and retain the right people
While South Africa’s unemployment rate is unproportionally high, there remains a demand for the right industry talent. Attracting and retaining employees saves money, time, training and reputation. One has to provide a work environment that doesn’t just tick the paycheck box, but rather aligns with individual values, and resonates with their way of life. This includes sustainability, green energy, collaboration opportunities with like-minded people, wellness and beauty. No one should have to work in an ugly environment.
Time is about quality not quantity
The rule-of-thumb that 20% of our activities accounts for 80% of our results is a clear indication that measuring our working hours by a time clock is an outdated philosophy. Whether you choose to implement a four day work week space or a four hour workday, you need to have in place systems that allow for easy work collaboration and sharing. This includes keeping meetings short, encouraging leave days and prioritising results over input time.
Engagement is what matters
When we are fully engaged in a situation before us, we bring our entire being to that moment. Engagement, in turn, generates energy that allows us to show up as our best self in all areas of our life. A good coworking space allows us to shift our mindset constantly to a more positive one.
Personal space and areas that encourage creativity, working with people that have a common goal to get things done, reducing stress related to connectivity or deadlines, and encouraging networking for advice and support – these are all part of an ecosystem that keeps us engaged and fulfilled.
As employees in the workspace, we must choose to put our mental and physical health first. As employers, we need to empower our teams with innovative spaces. No employee who works in fear will ever generate the best for the company. It’s the flexibility of time and how work and private tasks fit together that allows us to manage what’s important and live fuller lives. DM
By Andrea Desfarges on behalf of Workshop17