In preparation for the 2018 Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference, Capella University faculty teamed up with HR consultant and blogger Sharlyn Lauby, also known as the HR Bartender, to provide guidance on how to thrive in the workplace.
Here are three focus areas to make your work life more satisfying.
Work-life balance is something we all strive for yet find difficult to define. “To me, work/life balance is the concept of having both a personal and a professional life that I have control over,” Lauby says. “I don’t know that it means an equal 50/50 split of time. But it means I can have both.”
“The second part of the definition is equally important: control. This doesn’t mean that we never stay late or work on a weekend. Maybe that’s exactly what we want to do in order to get that project done in peace and quiet.”
Shelley Robbins, PhD, Senior Chair of Capella’s Master’s Business Programs, agrees. “The nature of work is changing,” she says. “How work-life balance is defined is going to change from person to person and from job to job. One person may feel successful in achieving work-life balance if they contain their work within normal work hours, while someone else feels successful if they work on Sunday in order to take the following Friday off.”
“It’s important that each person understands what it takes for them to thrive,” says Robbins. “What do they want from their work? What’s important outside of work?”
Robbins recommends starting with a quick fix: “Sit down on Sunday night or Monday morning, look hard at the calendar and ask, ‘What is happening this week? What are my family and work commitments? Are there kids’ soccer games? Am I traveling or committed to a working dinner?’ But don’t forget yourself; remember to ask, ’When can I schedule time for self-care? When can I find time to exercise and get enough sleep?’”
Once your demands have been fully identified, Robbins recommends figuring out ways to prioritize. Look carefully to see if there are things that can be dropped or if there are ways to make compromises. That might include arranging carpools for kids’ sports games, or setting a plan to go to bed earlier in order to wake up earlier to get some work done. “Look at it, think strategically, and make a plan to fit in all the activities most important to you,” Robbins advises.
Investing in Yourself
It can be easy to look at work-life balance as just a way to have more time for your personal life. But even if you’ve got that under control, you won’t be fully in balance if your work life isn’t meaningful. Lauby notes that work-life balance extends to career development, and Capella’s Cheryl Leitschuh, EdD, School of Business and Technology, agrees.
“The thing about your work life is that the longer you go on, the more you know—and the less you know,” says Leitschuh. “You grow by understanding what you don’t know and need to learn. That’s why investing in yourself is critical.”
When you invest in yourself and your career, she added, you’ll be more confident, less stressed, and more consciously aware. Without that renewed career confidence, stress from the workplace can trickle into life outside of work, disrupting the concept of work-life balance.
Leitschuh suggests several ways of investing in yourself:
- Training and courses. Education should be a lifelong part of your career path.
- Books. Read a lot. There is so much to learn from books and articles related to your field. Career development often depends on knowing industry trends and how to apply innovative solutions to workplace problems.
- Mentors. Find people who have the experience you’re striving for, and learn from that experience. (There’s more on mentors in the next section.)
- Personal experience. Investing in personal experience can include attending conferences, attaining certifications, and using online resources such as TED talks, among others. Look for opportunities to gain exposure to colleagues and teams that you wouldn’t typically meet. Don’t be afraid to volunteer for interdisciplinary assignments and give it your all. You never know how valuable these experiences can be to your career advancement.
- Memberships in professional organizations. These organizations can provide relevant, just-in-time information on what’s happening in your profession, as well as educational opportunities and career leads.
As to which area to start with, Leitschuh notes that any of them is a good start. “Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction,” she says. “Choose the one that speaks to you. You should do all eventually, but you can get there in different ways.”
Mentors can provide much needed support to improve your work life, and even your work-life balance. “Even when we set aside the time and money to pursue learning and education, we can’t do it alone,” says Lauby. “We need people around us to support our efforts. Support could also come in the form of gently nudging us when we don’t feel like studying, but we know we really need to.”
Al Gorriaran, PhD, Core Faculty of Capella’s School of Business, believes there are many ways to find a mentor to work with. “It’s a journey,” he says. “You can start by finding someone you think would be a good fit by looking for common interests and backgrounds.” He notes that it may take several queries, as the first person you approach may not have time or interest in taking on a mentee. But they may know someone who could.
Gorriaran also emphasizes the importance of setting realistic expectations and reaching out to people appropriate for the stage of your career. “If you’re entry level, you don’t necessarily need a highly placed executive,” he says. “At entry level, you’re better off looking for someone, say, in mid-level management.”
Know that you won’t likely stay with the same mentor for your entire career. As you progress, what you need from a mentor will change. For example, if you’ve reached mid-level management, it could be time to start looking for an executive mentor who can start helping you approach the executive ranks yourself.
Developing these work relationships, as well as investing in your own career, can help make your work life more rewarding—and that in turn can help you manage your overall work-life balance more advantageously.
Capella offers the following human resources programs:
- Bachelor of Science in Business with a Specialization in Human Resource Management
- MBA with a Specialization in Human Resource Management
- Master of Science in General Human Resource Management
- Human Resource Management Graduate Certificate
- Doctor of Business Administration with a Specialization in Human Resource Management
- PhD in Human Resource Management