Article (August-2021)


Work-Life Balance is a cycle, not an achievement

Mihir Gosalia

Designation : -  

Organization : -  Mumbai


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1. To some extent yes, the organisation did fail to see or rather I would say neglect the aspect of work-life balance in Vikram's life. After all, who would not be aware of the importance of maintaining a work-life balance especially in today's pandemic times where home and office are the same, there is no such thing as 'calling it a day' or 'left office for home', etc…There are no fixed work hour timings. Employees are burnt out working from home continuously ever since the pandemic started and no immediate solution seems in sight. In fact, the necessity of maintaining a work-life balance has become all the more important now. So to say that the organisation failed to see importance of work-life balance in Vikram's life is ironical.

If I were to look at it from an employer's perspective, here I have recruited someone with me who is young, ambitious, talented, hungry for success, is an achiever, workaholic, is able to manage huge loads of work, can work 24*7*365, travel, can do all the work assigned to him and deliver results in quick time, then why should I stop him from doing that. After all, it is going to benefit the organisation and generate more revenue & profits and I am paying him the salary equivalent to that, then I should get those results too. An organisation is in existence to make money and profits, no matter how. Competition is ruthless in today's times. Who gets there quicker, better, faster and cheaper is the one who wins. So organisations will be more focused on results and deliverables with quick turnaround time as compared to taking it easy and going slow because of an old saying that says need to maintain work-life balance in employee's life.

2. The approach adopted by Vikram in the case study is that of a young ambitious person who wants to achieve all that he can in a very short span of time. It is also very natural for a person as he is full of energy, enthusiasm and go getter attitude. Also Vikram had full liberty and authority to do everything as per his liking with no one to question or stop him as long as the results were delivered, the organisation was growing, generating revenue and making profits. Also there was no family pressure on Vikram as his father was class one government officer and he the lone child of his parents. So they were a small family. Besides Vikram's father was travelling most of the time and so most of the time, it was just Vikram and his mother who were at home. Hence there was no one to counsel or guide Vikram some good wisdom that life is a never ending journey and not a destination that is to be reached in a short span of time.

Corporate philosophy states that reward for good work is more work and that's exactly what Vikram got, busier than ever, unending travels and office hours. However in all this so called corporate rat race to be successful & on top of the world, Vikram forgot the need to balance his personal life too. He forgot that every human being goes through different stages of life and wherein one has to fulfill his or her obligation towards it. In case of Vikram, it was time to get married and settle down life and have a family of his own after establishing himself in professional life and being fairly successful at it. However he choose to ignore that and instead got hungrier for more work and more success. He should have looked at the warning signs when his marriage was spurned by the bride and her father because he choose to delay it and priortised work over family. Or that time had flown so fast & he had aged so much beyond a marriageable age that he was now getting marriage offers from divorcees & widows with children. That should have been the early warning signals for Vikram that something is not right in life and that he needed to take time off and introspect as to in which direction it is heading.

This started having further effect on professional life that unable to find a suitable life partner by the fact that his behaviour & attitude had started changing, he was becoming short tempered and losing his cool on very small matters. It could be seen by the example of Vikram throwing hot tea back on the face of the boy just because he served it a little bit late. Vikram was getting irritated by small matters too and losing his cool and temper.

It was only when Vikram had to go to hospital, left with no other option, for health check-up and when the doctor identified that he was passing through extreme stress and psychological panic disorders. His arteries were started getting blocked to some extent resulting in hypertension. It was only after seeing the reports and discussion with Doctor that Vikram realised that his greed to earn more and more money, untamed ambition, and absence of personal life hours from work had pushed him into this deep dark corporate tunnel. So it tool a failing health & doctor to dawn upon Vikram that he needed to slow down, wondering as to what he achieved and what he lost in those years. Only if Vikram had known that this madness towards work although it fetched him huge money and a fat bank balance, it had also pushed him to a stage, where doctor's visits were regular and matrimonial offers were from widows and divorcees with children and a lonely mother.

Vikram should have realized that although working long hours was inevitable, he should have been able to resist this pressure and achieve a healthier balance through a process of increasing awareness, conscious reprioritizing, and implementation of public and private changes. It's often a major life event such as the one that has happened to Vikram which has catalyzed these realizations. Vikram should realise that he is under the influence of an overpowering culture of long work hours and that it's easy to slide back into "business as usual".

3. No, the company was not right in giving added responsibility to Vikram of supply chain and vendor management even after noticing changes in his behaviour, resignations of other managers due to it and in spite of it being brought to their notice. The company chose to remain silent about it, ignore it, because Vikram was their blue-eyed boy and he had achieved many a laurels for them and more importantly was capable of handling additional responsibilities too. So they chose not to upset him lest their revival and growth plans post the pandemic get hampered. Company had its own objectives & targets in mind and were least bothered with what was happening in the personal life of Vikram as long as it was not affecting theirs.

4. Work-Life Balance Is a Cycle, not an Achievement. Research has shown that overwork isn't good for employees or their companies and yet, in practice, it can be hard to overcome unhealthy work habits and reach a more sustainable work-life balance. To achieve lasting change, both must view this process of work-life balance not as a one-time activity, but as a cycle in which one constantly re-evaluates the evolving feelings and priorities, and adjust one's work and life choices accordingly. Despite the resounding evidence that working long hours can be harmful to both employees and employers, many professionals still struggle to overcome their assumptions and their deeply-ingrained habits around work hours as seen in the case of Vikram in this case study. For the company and especially for Vikram, to free himself from these unhealthy patterns and reach a more sustainable, rewarding work-life balance, achieving better balance between professional and personal priorities boils down to a combination of reflexivity - or questioning assumptions to increase self-awareness - and intentional role redefinition. Both should note that this is not a one-time fix, but rather, a cycle that they must engage in continuously as the circumstances and priorities evolve.

Pause and denormalize : Vikram should take a step back and ask himself: What is currently causing me stress, unbalance, or dissatisfaction? How are these circumstances affecting how I perform and engage with my job? How are they impacting my personal life? What am I prioritizing? What am I sacrificing? What is getting lost? Only after Vikram has taken a mental pause and acknowledged these factors can he begin to tackle them.

Pay attention to emotions : Once Vikram has increased his awareness of his current situation, he should examine how that situation makes him feel. Ask himself, do I feel energized, fulfilled, satisfied? Or do I feel angry, resentful, sad ? A rational understanding of the decisions and priorities driving one's life is important, but equally important is emotional reflexivity - that is, the capacity to recognize how a situation is making you feel. Awareness of the emotional state is essential in order to determine the changes one wants to make in one's work and in life.

Reprioritize : Increasing the cognitive and emotional awareness will give Vikram the tools he needs to put things into perspective and determine how his priorities need to be adjusted. He should ask himself: What am I willing to sacrifice, and for how long? If I have been prioritizing work over family, for example, why do I feel that it is important to prioritize my life in this way? Is it really necessary? Is it really inevitable? What regrets do I already have, and what will I regret if I continue along my current path?

Priorities often shift faster than our day-to-day time allocation habits. A more positive work-life balance intentionally reprioritized how one spends their time in a way that lined up with their true priorities will go a long way in achieving harmony between work-life. Example - Vikram could describe how he still saw himself as a professional, but redefined that professional role to be more inclusive of other valued roles, such as that of a caring son for his family.

Consider alternatives : Before jumping into solutions, both Vikram & the company should ponder if there are components of the job that both would like to see changed? How much time would Vikram like to spend with his family, or on hobbies? Improving situation takes time and experimentation.

Implement changes : Finally, once the priorities have been recognized and carefully considered the options that could help improve the situation and especially to Vikram, take action. That can mean taking on a new role that's designed to be less time-demanding or allows for a compressed-week model - or an informal one wherein Vikram changes his work patterns, without necessarily attempting to change the company's expectations.

In order to achieve harmony & work-life balance, Vikram could look at self-imposing boundaries such as choosing not to work on evenings, weekends or during holidays and sticking to that decision, or turning down demands typically associated with his role such as new projects or travel requests, even when he feels pressure to take them on. Another suggested solution for Vikram is securing support from key mentors, partners, and coworkers or a flexible working scheme is likely to result in more lasting change.

Vikram must note that in order to make real changes in his life, he must continuously remember to pause, connect with his emotions, rethink priorities, evaluate alternatives, and implement changes throughout personal and professional lives especially since the steps outlined above are not a one-time activity, but rather a cycle of continuous re-evaluation and improvement.

Mihir Gosalia