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Commentary

Why You Should Stop Worrying About Work-Life Balance

Mar 20, 2017

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What are your strategies for staying effective while working remotely?” is written by Elisa Steele, CEO of Jive Software.

I’m often asked, “How do you maintain a work-life balance?" That question used to make me feel uncomfortable because I didn't know the answer. So much of what we say about achieving balance sounds great—but it's rarely a reality. The truth is, it's a super hard thing to achieve and sustain for many of us. But, now, I am at ease with the question.

I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing of work-life balance. Instead I just live my life, which includes what I do at work, with my family, and in my community. But I’m only able to do so because of my ability to work remotely. Other professionals should have the same opportunity.

For years, I failed in my quest to get to this great work-life balance I thought I was supposed to achieve. You name it; I tried it. Worse yet, everyone else seemed to be talking about how well they were able to do it. It wasn’t until I gave up trying to balance my life that I figured it all out. I developed a new state of mind, to simply do what feels right at the right time. I began answering this question honestly: “What is most important for me to do at this time?”

I found I could easily answer that question and needed to start implementing the answer. That might mean working on a presentation on Sunday so I could participate in my kids' activities on Monday. It might mean working from my car outside a doctor's office in the middle of the day on Wednesday. It might also mean traveling for work for two weeks straight, and then planning a long weekend with my family to have dedicated time together. The reality is that both family and work are with me wherever I go. My physical location is getting less in the way of being in the right place at the right time.

Last year, the percentage of employees working remotely at least part of the week rose to 43% in the U.S. Those numbers are nearly twice as high for sales and marketing professionals and executives. In addition, desk-less workers make up 80% of the global workforce. In order to conduct business more flexibly, we have to make sure everyone has the right tools to stay connected and productive.

As the CEO of a global company, I’m often on the road working with employees, customers, partners, and shareholders across time zones and countries. This is true for many other roles today. That’s why Jive has made such an effort to cultivate a culture of community, connection, and transparency among our employees. Leveraging our own product, we communicate using blogs, videos, polls, discussion forums, groups, and teams. This blurs physical location lines and creates a sense of connectedness across the organization. This not only helps me stay aligned with the team while I’m away, but it helps our global employees work better together.

Just as I use Jive every day to get my work done with 600 other employees, I also use technology to stay close to my family when we are not home together. I find that teenagers actually talk more and make more eye contact on Skype and FaceTime than in person!

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