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Challenges with a Work-Life Balance and Project Management

SECOND EDITION

By Rebecca J. Brady, PMP

and

Michael I. Borts, PMP

Dallas area, North Texas, USA

 


There was a time when working hours were more clearly defined. You went to work at the same time and you returned home at the same time. For example, dinner was at 6:03 p.m. every night. The “breadwinner” then had time to spend with the family, for hobbies and spiritual development. In this day and age, the separation between work and the rest of your life has become nebulous. It often starts with just one short email that leads to one more conference call from home. By the time you have powered down your laptop, it is well into the evening, where all of your home responsibilities are not being met and your personal needs are not being addressed. In addition, globalization makes it much more difficult to decide when your work hours begin and end. High speed internet and smart phones mean that we are always connected to the workplace. Having a work-life balance in your life has become a more challenging goal.

Corporations are requiring more of employees and striving to do more with less. At the same time businesses want to maintain and develop an effective workforce. They recognize the importance of a home and life balance, although this balance at times conflicts with business exigencies. The conundrum is how to maintain an effective workforce while remaining profitable, keeping costs low, and maintaining customer satisfaction.

Work-Life balance: What it is and what it is not

The definition of a work life balance is not straightforward. One definition is managing your work life and personal life so that you are productive, satisfied, and happy.  Stephen R. Covey states “having a good work/life balance means that your actions and priorities are aligned in a way that is taking care of what is really important to you.” (Covey)

There does not have to be an equal balance of time for work and the rest of your life’s activities. Life is fluid and changing. For example, some parts of your company’s business cycle may be more time intensive than others.  In the NICE IEX WFM Implementation Group, the expectation is that additional time and efforts will be required at the end of every quarter for project managers and technicians in completing implementations and in revenue recognition. Introduction of a new product has and will require extra focus and time for one of our group’s project managers this year. On the other hand, your personal life will take precedence for events such as the first day of school, a Boy Scout camping trip, or the birth of a baby. Priorities need to be evaluated and managed by both the business and the individual together.

There is no one size fits all Work-Life balance. Different stages of life and career have different Work-Life balances. Different business needs require different commitments and requirements. An imbalance is created when dissonance occurs between work time and personal life time. An imbalance results when you end up dealing with your urgent tasks and neglect the non-urgent, but important. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the work-life balance and methods to achieve this balance.

Why is a Work-Life balance important?

A work-life imbalance may result in the following:

  • Decreased efficiency: According to studies, the first forty hours of work a week are more productive and effective than subsequent hours. We become less efficient with the extra hours and are more prone to mistakes. For example, in 2008, it was reported that an overworked medical staff in the US made approximately 4,000 avoidable errors. (Articlesbase, par 2).
  • Increased stress may result in health concerns including anxiety, depression, heart conditions, excessive weight, hair loss, and even loss of libido. According to a study of the American Psychological Association:
    • 54% of Americans are concerned about their stress levels. 30% consider their stress levels as extreme.
    • 66% of American adults suffer from stress induced chronic health condition. (Nyab)
  • There is even a Japanese term, Karōshi, which can be translated literally into “death from overwork”.
  • Relationship degradation – Working too much may cause you to miss family interactions as well as important events or milestones. Relationships require nurturing, time and ongoing attention. Once damage is done, it is often more difficult and time consuming to repair than if appropriate time and focus had occurred all along.

Companies have higher turnover and employee burnout when there are long term work-life imbalances. Employees are less efficient. Profitability and sustainability are core goals for companies and to achieve both recognition of the necessity of a work-life balance for employees is essential.

More…

To read entire paper, click here

 

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 5th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in August 2011.  It is republished here with the authors’ permission.


 

About the Authors

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Rebecca Brady, PMP

Texas, USA

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Rebecca Brady, Sr. Manager, Implementation, has been employed with NICE Systems IEX Workforce Management Group since 1998. She has had several roles at IEX including project manager, customer advocate, and manager of implementation. Rebecca has over fifteen years of project management experience. She has a MS in Finance and is a PMP.   Rebecca can be contacted at [email protected].

 

pmwj53-dec2016-brady-borts
Michael Borts, PMP

Texas, USA

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Michael Borts has been employed as a project manager with NICE Systems IEX Workforce Management Group since 2000. Michael has over fifteen years of project management experience. He has a BA and is a PMP. In addition, he is a member of the Vocal Majority chorus and is a National Anthem soloist for the Dallas Mavericks and Texas Rangers.  Michael can be contacted at [email protected].