Work-life balance RIP!

roundtable-discussions-jboye17 How do you truly strike the right balance between your work and your life? A constant challenge for most it seems, with many workplaces making employees physically sick. Might we be approaching it from the wrong angle?

We’ve covered this topic extensively during the past decade in our peer groups as well as at our conferences offering a deeper understanding of the topic, identifying problems, connecting it to the changing way of work and offering solutions.

Most recently Maren Christin Hübl from SAP in Germany led a popular roundtable at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference on the topic. I followed up with her in a recent phone conversation and wanted to share some of my notes on the topic as well as the insights from the conference conversation and the further thinking from Maren.

What does work-life balance really mean and why is it important?

On a personal level, the topic has changed meaning during the past 20 years of working. While in the beginning of my career and pre-family, routines were different and the entire notion of work had a different meaning. The divide between work and life still existed, but it clearly looked different.

A real eye-opener to me was in 2013, when our member Boris Kraft, co-founder of Basel-based software vendor Magnolia shared his personal take on the topic at a peer group meeting in London. His slides were appropriately titled Work life balance? Key learnings from Boris talk, was his point on how you cannot change the fact, that there are 24 hours in a day, but you can shape how you spend the hours and consider which activities renew your energy. He also had a useful message on taking breaks, sleeping and enjoying vacations. Some of his reflections were based on a New York Times opinion piece called Relax! You’ll be more productive.

A popular feature article in Harvard Business Review the following year, titled Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life also helped shape much of my thinking on the topic. It reframed the question and said not to think of it as much as a balance, but rather as two individual facets of life which both need careful managing.

Fast forward to today and the age of always on, fear of missing out, social networks, smartphone notifications and new voice-activated assistants. It clearly takes a different kind of thinking to strike the right balance and that’s why Maren controversially said ‘Work-life balance Rest in Peace’.

Barriers and things that help

A key part of the discussion at the conference roundtable led by Maren was on barriers hindering a better work-life balance as well as on an open sharing of hacks which could help.

According to Maren, the more social interactions and social networks you have, the more complex it gets. Expectations can be implicit towards your role and how you engage and the challenge is to make the expectations explicit. How might you better design the right context for you and those in your near circles?

Similar to the point made by Boris Kraft, the discussion also touched on how to spend your energy. What’s the sufficient amount of energy to solve a task and what gives you energy?

Other keywords included behavioral change, new roles and thinking differently. The point was made, that as a modern leader, you need to step back a let the people find out what’s the most important and how to solve it. By re-thinking leadership as something that is done not only by one person, leaders get to enjoy the work life even more. They can share some of the responsibilities – which sometimes feel more like a burden when expectations are growing in our complex, dynamic world. This is also what the Management 3.0-movement shows us, and servant leaders like David Marquet prove

Learn more about work-life balance and the future of work

The term employee experience is increasingly coming up in our peer group meetings. Netflix is famous for their work on their guide to company culture and other companies, including old, complex and global organisations are redesigning their workplaces. Might this not only be driven by efficiency goals, but also by a sense for the need to stay relevant and invest in the well-being of their employees?

We’ll certainly continue learning and the conversation and I invite you to be a part of it!

Welcome home. Oops, we meant, “Welcome to work.”

welcome-home-spacesThis was the sign that greeted me, when I entered the excellent co-working location called Spaces in late March.

Spaces was the venue for the very first J. Boye event on “Workplace of the Future” held in Amsterdam in late March and a fitting location to think about how to make true progress.

Clearly most organisations are not designed for a digital age. The line between home and office is blurring, and together with the participants we identified key problems, co-created potential solutions and discussed lessons learned.

The Human Resources department was identified as the missing stakeholder in most organisations. Below, I share some of the notable discussions for each session.

Your company culture is already changing

During the past years, organisational culture and issues around it, has been a common topic in many J. Boye group meetings around the world. A popular HBR article from 2016 titled Culture is not the Culprit, helped shape my view on the topic by saying that culture is not something you fix. Rather it is something that evolves over time.

At the event in Amsterdam, social business expert Monique van Maare from IBM, shared their story of igniting cultural transformation for the future of work. IBM was founded in 1911 and has managed to reinvent itself more than a few times. Monique showed this brief video on the new IBM:

Monique shared some quite impressive examples of experimental learning and cross-company collaboration. Some of the key questions we tried to answer were:

  • How do you sustain new ways of working?
  • What’s the role of e-mail? In particular with the advent of many new tools

Improving the employee experience using apps

impossible-signAt the German-based T-Systems MMS, more than 70% of employees use the employee app. Susann Wanitschke is their Internal Communication Manager and travelled from Dresden to share a glimpse behind the scenes.

Learning from success stories is always helpful and clearly they’ve done something right when it comes to ensuring adoption. Having an element of fun seemed a crucial element in moving the employee experience into the pocket, onto the smartphones and far beyond the usual legacy intranet.

An often overlooked point, when it comes to the app vs. no app discussion, is that push notifications is one of the real game changers for internal communications.

Finally: The T-Systems app is available in the Android Marketplace and iTunes Appstore and developed by Staffbase.

The Philips journey into a digital workplace world

Similar to IBM, Philips is one of those giant companies, which have managed to radical change in recent years. When they can do it, why can’t your smaller organisation?

Dennis Agusi is Communication Channels Lead with Philips. He shared key parts of their journey in moving away from their legacy intranet. Read more in the documented case study on how Philips moved their intranet from 123,000 to 5,000 pages.

As a part of the discussions, we arrived at this slightly adapted and simple definition of the digital workplace:

“Provide best access to people, data and tools”

A new approach to knowledge management

workshopSimilar to e-mail which was discussed throughout the day, knowledge management also carries a fair amount of baggage in most organisations. We realize knowledge is valuable, yet we tend to treat it carelessly.

Herman Limburg of CGI took us through an eye-opening workshop where he made us think different about knowledge management. In particular, he helped us see the many non-technical means that are essential to knowledge management.

Do you want to become a learning organisation? The simple advice was to start writing up lessons learned.

We also discussed missing governance around finding subject matter experts and how to ensure that content becomes validated and remains valid and trustworthy.

Making it a productive workplace

The final session was by Casper van Amelsvoort from Rabobank, who shared how they work to increase productivity, collaboration and agility.

Shadow IT might be great for productivity, but what about governance, training and security? Casper offered this advice on how to deal with it:

dealing-with-shadow-it

Discussions in this session focused on trying to achieve 2 major objectives:

  • How to realize big cost savings
  • Speeding up innovation while staying in control

The conversation continues

Thanks to everyone who participated and helped make it a most interesting day. Feel free to share a comment below with your reflections and insights on the workplace of the future.