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Trends, Product and Industry Insights to Help Create Your HR Tomorrow, Today.

  • March 11, 2015

Why You Need to Forget Everything You Know About Work/Life Balance

By Kate Pavao

Since the 1980s, Leading the Life You Want author Stewart Friedman has been thinking about how to help people have more-complete lives. He helped launch the Work/Life Integration Project at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and currently has more than 90,000 people enrolled in the massive open online course he teaches through Coursera called ?Better Leader, Richer Life.?

His secret formula? Figuring out how to take what's special about you and make it useful to others. ?That's what's liberating of the individual in our world,? he says. Here, Friedman talks to Profit about strategies that make for happier workers and more-productive organizations.

On work/life balance: Balance is bunk, because it makes you think ?trade-off.? When you think you've got to give something up to get something in the other parts of your life, you are limited in terms of what is possible. When you adopt a ?four-way wins? way of thinking instead, you look for opportunities to take action that's going to have a positive impact in all the different parts of your life, including work; home; community; and your own mind, body, and spirit. When you look at it that way, you are much more likely to see opportunity than if you assume it's not there.

On millennials and beyond: So many people in the economy today have been consumed by a culture of overwork, and have an intense sense of feeling overwhelmed and out of control. The advent of the digital age has made it very difficult to create meaningful boundaries between work and the rest of life.

Plus, there's been a shift in our society over the past 20 years toward an even greater sense of individualism. That being said, the pendulum is swinging back. I have studied the changing values of different generations, and what's very clear is that young people are much more keen to do work that has social value than they were 10 years ago and, certainly, 20 years ago.

On talent management: The more policies and programs you create for flexibility for family and medical leave, and for investing in the health and welfare of people, the more you're going to be able to attract and retain workers. But you also have to scale them up to be able to produce creative change that works for them and works for you.

When you empower people to come up with solutions that work for them as leaders in the different parts of their lives?for example, starting their workday at noon once a week?people respond very favorably. They're going to feel more loyal, and be more productive. Companies that get ahead of this are going to be more competitive in the labor market.

On wearables: Your attention is perhaps your most precious asset. If you are continually checking your wearable, consumed by information and having your attention pulled in directions that are not consistent with what you really value, then wearables can be a problem. But learning to be more conscious, deliberate, mindful of what matters and where you want to attend, that's a good thing, and metrics help you. If used wisely, these tools?like any technology?can be helpful in that regard.

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