Stop looking for balance.

The word balance is ok when you’re talking about nutrition.  It’s a great thing when you’re riding a bike: without balance there is only grazed knees and tears.  When it comes to work, we need to move beyond balance. 

The term balance refers to the ability to separate the different parts of our existence so that we do not overwork and give away any more of our precious time for free than we absolutely have to?  It means completely decoupling paid work from the rest of life and never the twain shall meet.  It means you as a company exchanging an individuals 9am – 5pm for your money. 

When we gathered everyone in one place, it was reasonable to do it all at the same time,  It made it easier and more efficient to manage. It did how ever come with certain draw backs.   Not everyone does their best work between 9 and 5 and secondly, even in an office, people have a lot of ingenuity and they will find ways to slack and get away with it, when they want to.

If this paradigm continues when teams are working remotely, then businesses will definitely struggle to get the best out of their teams.  it can also have knock-on effects. If people cannot manage their own time and are expected to be available at their desk from 9 am to 5 pm it will increase social isolation. 

Ultimately, this paradigm will reduce productivity, because under the time-for-money controlled system, people need to be externally motivated, which is really difficult for an organisation to do especially remotely.

When your team is remote, you need to think about fluidity rather than balance – a concept that allows us to make sure we live life enjoying the best of both worlds – being fulfilled in work and fulfilled in life.  A way to have enough time to enjoy our family and leisure time, and also feeling like we are doing good, worthwhile work on something that matters.

To do this well, you need to provide a compelling reason for people to get up, get to work and deliver well.  They need to understand and articulate the reason the organisation exists – the ‘why’ as Simon Sinek calls it – and allow your teams to see the worthwhile, important and impactful work they are doing, so they are internally, personally motivated to bring their best, whether in an office or at their kitchen table. 

Businesses need to realise the one size does not fit all and that if people have a compelling, worthwhile and fulfilling cause to be part of, they need less managing, less control and CAN be trusted to deliver, whether that’s in an office or remotely. Finding balance is about allowing work-life and life-life to co-exist in a fluid harmony. Sometimes that has strict boundaries. Sometimes that is lots of give and take.  The ultimate aim is not to de-couple, but find fulfilment, joy and meaning in the whole of life, including our work.

The wider implication of this is that those businesses that are actually doing good and do give their people a compelling “why” will be better suited to survive in the changing economic world of the 21st century and that’s good for business, good for society, good for capitalism and good for our shared future.

Let’s treat individuals like adults and not resources.

Find out how well you’re doing on creating fluidity with the Free Culture Scorecard: Take the 5 minute assessment here.