Work-life balance? Get real…

Why do you work late into the evening and all weekend and then complain… I haven’t seen the children, partner, friends, family etc.

For some you feel you have to work late… the company culture dictates it, promotion depends on it, income depends on it and so forth.   This is very true of males and females with or without children.

Abstract_3877MLet’s be honest about the whole work-life balance concept. It is great in theory, for most it is just that – a theory or concept and not real life. You have to consider what work-life balance means to you, and again for most, this is where you go to work for an acceptable number of hours and then have a time to balance this out with your life wants, friends, family, community, hobbies etc. For others, it is work as hard and as long as you can now, and reap the benefits of this when you are older, more financially secure, and when the business is holding its own…


There are companies out there who have a culture of starting early and staying late. The expectation is that staff will be there when the managers are there, or even when the managers are not. What is it that is being proven by this culture?   Is it an ego trip? Is it identity by busyness?   Is it short-sighted individuals within the company laying down the law? Is there a real need within the business to have this level of attendance? What does the long days mean to performance? And more importantly what is the sacrifice and outcome for the individuals? Or could it be that the workloads do actually require the additional effort; should the company be considering employing additional resources?


Being realistic is the first task when considering work-life balance. What does it mean to you?   You are responsible for your work-life balance; do not give that responsibility to others.

Being realistic involves understanding what if anything you are prepared to sacrifice – for most realistic Entrepreneurs know and understand that starting and growing a business puts life on hold. There is a general hope that the end results will more than justify the sacrifice.   The higher you climb the career ladder the more that is expected of us, this usually translates into additional hours on the job. What will you sacrifice to accommodate this?

If you choose a job that allows you to start later and finish earlier, be realistic, the pay is probably not going to be that great – what are you prepared to sacrifice?   What is that sacrifice worth? If you are chasing the big bucks, something has to give.

In a world where you are being bombarded with economic upturns/downturns, cost of living rising, quality of life is costing more. A lot of men as well as women feel that they must invest more time in their roles. You need to be seen to be working hard and long; if you can’t carry out your job within your contractual hours then making us redundant would be detrimental to the business. This is not realistic.

A senior Director recently remarked in a coaching session; “If my staff are not carrying out their work in their given hours then I would query their capabilities. If they are staying late, I want something in addition to their expected output. Giving me the extra; I would reward”.

Work-life balance is about addressing what is important to you and how you best achieve this.

Importance and commitment

What is important for you? What will you commit to giving up? Is it worth it?   There generally is something that has to be given up when you bring something else on board. Work-life balance is about your understanding of this and making the commitment to this and then working towards it. Looking for more down-time normally results in less money. Looking for more money normally results in more time in the office.   Looking to start a new career, more time is required in developing yourself, and less time for other areas of your life. Setting up a company, wow, that is a commitment and a real sacrifice (from experience) although the rewards can be fantastic.

There is a give and take and you need to know what ours is, commit to your important outcomes and work towards this. Let’s be realistic when thinking work-life balance!
Work-life balance is not an unreachable nirvana; it is about real effort on your part to understand what your nirvana looks like.   It is also about understanding and managing when things get in the way. The emergency at work that calls for immediate attention as you close down your laptop. The early morning meeting being rearranged to work around child care.   You have to be flexible for it to work for all parties, not just you and not just the company.

One of the greatest forces working against us is time, or more importantly your self-management and how realistic you are with fitting everything into your day. There is the same amount of time for everyone, it’s just a matter of being focused.

Stop thinking of the ideal world; start working towards your real world.   Part of that is giving serious thought to your work-life balance and remembering taking something on does mean that you give something up, it is the what you choose to give up that is the tough part.

Here are my ten top tips to achieving your work-life balance:

  1. Know what you want and what motivates you – money, job satisfaction, leisure, children etc.
  2. Look at the different options that will accommodate your wants
  3. Now be realistic and choose what, if anything, you will sacrifice from your ideal list of requirements.
  4. Discuss this with someone close, a friend, a mentor, a coach, someone who has the confidence to confirm or challenge your idea of “realistic”.
  5. If you’re looking to start work with a company: research them on the web.
  6. Now find the truth, if you know someone who works there, ask them for an honest opinion of the culture of the company. If you are at an interview, ask the question directly to the interviewers, note their body language!
  7. When working for and with others, from the start confidently state your wants.
  8. Build a support network around you to help you achieve your work-life balance.
  9. Execute Self Management.
  10. Be flexible.

Stop thinking of the prescriptive ideal world; start working towards your own.   A large part of this is your work-life balance.

Changing Attitudes | Influencing Behaviours | Impacting Outcomes…


Margo Manning is Managing Director of Bute Learning and Development and Margo Manning Ltd. Margo is a professional speaker and Executive Coach.

Margo has been in the development arena for 20 years and more specifically in coaching for 11 of those.  Margo has worked with companies such as UBS, Goldman Sachs, AON, Balfour Beatty, Brunswick LLP, BBMV, Tower Hamlets Homes to name a few.

Contact Margo on +44 (0)20 3489 6734 or email