Understanding Well-Being, Work-Life Harmony, and Strengths
Last week Gallup hosted a Learning Series for Gallup-Certified Coaches with a number of the sessions focused on the topic of Well-being in the Workplace and when Coaching with strengths. These thought-provoking sessions caused me to reflect heavily on my own past with the term “well-being” and my more recent challenges. They provided insights for me to finally begin to really grasp the concepts, what they require, and ultimately what they mean for me specifically.
I personally struggled for years to intellectually understand and make sense of the terms “well-being” and “work-life balance.” Just ask the employees who work with me how many times we had in depth discussions (read: debates and even arguments) around this topic. A few years ago, my team created materials on “well-being” to better train our managers on its importance, our philosophy, the policies, and the tools/resources available to them as Managers to leverage with their teams. Despite creating and sharing this training, I struggled tremendously with the content and concepts. Why did I struggle so much?
My Struggle with Well-Being & Work-Life Balance
Well — my biggest challenge is — I LOVE working, I mean really truly LOVE working! I know it sounds crazy to some, but I love the sense of accomplishment, I love coaching employees, I love using technology, and I love creating an extraordinary employee experience. Therefore, why in the world did I need to do anything other than work? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I also love being outdoors, taking vacations, and reading every kind of book imaginable, but because I enjoy work, I didn’t understand the term “balance” and I didn’t understand why “well-being” meant somehow achieving some superior state of being meeting social, community, financial, health, and career needs.
Before having my son in March of 2016, my personal values (what I deemed most important to me) did not include family — rather my focus was on excellence, results, learning, growing, etc. At the time, I truly believed having children would not change me. After the birth of my son (and more recently my twin daughters), I realize now that statement was only partially true. While I am still passionate about working, I still love it and it gives me tremendous satisfaction, I also adore my children and love the time I spend with them.
From Well-Being to Mindset to Work-Life Blending
While working on the well-being training, I was personally going through a tremendous struggle with a significant health issue. I struggled to see how life could ever be completely balanced as I was challenged daily to keep up with work and have the energy to spend time with my son and husband. I argued “How could anyone ever really ‘achieve’ “well-being?” I felt it was impossible and unrealistic. Then through research and significant self-reflection, I discovered the power of mindset and the ability to improve one’s state of being despite one’s circumstances. After a brief hospitalization just before Christmas undergoing tremendous challenges, I realized I could find joy, happiness, and contentment even in the midst of significant struggle. I pondered…if this is possible, then why should we focus on some abstract concept of “well-being” and an even more ridiculous concept of “balance.” After this experience, I began referring to “work-life balance” as “work-life blending,” which meant finding the right blend of the two and accomplishing them in parallel. I got quite good at doing this (with only one child) and advancing my career while reserving time for family (with tremendous support/involvement of my husband).
From Work-Life Blending to Survival
In 2019, I had twin girls that came with a whole new set of challenges (as I am sure you can imagine). As a female leader, I was juggling nursing twins and meetings, desperately trying to get into the office — and well-being was nonexistent…there was only survival. And balance well — it consisted of getting maybe two (sometimes one), three hour stretches of sleep at night! I learned how to pump milk while conducting trainings and in leadership meetings. Extra time — for friends, church, hobbies, etc. — just did not exist. Even “work-life blending” became ridiculous — I had no intentional blend of anything. I was simply doing my best not to completely disappoint at work while keeping my babies fed (who as a side note due to a health condition, FPIES, could not tolerate formula, so I had no choice but to keep feeding them myself). Don’t get me wrong, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. The choices and the life I struggled through was for my children who I love and adore and for my career which I also love and adore. I might be easier on myself and set more realistic expectations given the limitations so as not to disappoint myself, but it was absolutely what was required at the time.
Enter the 2020 COVID pandemic. You all know the story — working remotely, juggling kids, figuring out childcare, isolation, exhaustion, etc. etc. etc. Interestingly, although I miss interactions with people, going to fun outings (zoo, etc.), and traveling, I have actually had better well-being during the pandemic. I’ve gotten more sleep at night working from home (not needing to “get ready” and drive to work). I’ve actually accomplished more at work than I have in prior years. My teams became even more effective. I’ve developed closer relationships with my family and most especially my children. I’ve been able to see my girls grow up in a way I might otherwise never have. And I even re-established friendships with my two best friends from high school having regularly zoom video calls to catch up. Once again, don’t get me wrong this last year was HARD but in the end despite the pain and challenges there are some silver linings.
All this brings me to last week and how I have finally started to grasp these concepts which have consistently proved difficult. I recently completed my Workhuman Professional Certification. Part of this certification is Workhuman’s “The Charter of Workplace Rights” which include nine rights of a human workplace (amazing and I highly recommend you check the full list out). The right that stood out to me on this topic in particular was:
From Work-Life Blending to Work-Life Harmony
Finally a term that makes sense and resonates with me personally — “work-life harmony” which is defined as:
“Work-life harmony is about how people respond to the constant fluctuations of work and personal priorities. It’s about how much or how little these areas of life are integrated and, most importantly, how each one enriches each other. Work-life harmony means all the various aspects of people’s lives work in concert to create a sense of fulfillment.
Everyone’s version of work-life harmony is unique since people have different priorities, responsibilities, and values. What is consistent is the right for employees to achieve both personal and professional goals in a way that is fulfilling to them.” - Workhuman
What a fantastic explanation of what I have been struggling to wrap my mind around for years. I have always felt well-being was unique to the individual and I think this explanation is perfect. I truly want to have a life experience that creates this work-life harmony. Beyond my own life, my personal purpose is to help people have the best life experience possible and have our business contribute positively to that experience. Work-life harmony fits perfectly with my mission and purpose. For me, work-life harmony does not mean working less, rather it means intentionally getting the most out of my day/time to create results at work while also intentionally focusing on my children and husband while with them. I am very much “in progress” on working on my “work-life harmony” and recognize this is likely an ongoing process rather than a future state of achievement. I believe this is where “well-being” can play an important and meaningful role.
By paying attention to our current well-being and the various contributors that may be at play in impacting our overall well-being, we can identify strategies or make changes to move towards work-life harmony. Elements of well-being serve not as a destination, where you have ‘achieved’ success in all five areas, but rather the a process for self-reflection and the tools to take action to improve.
Jessica’s Breakthrough Insight
In my current life circumstance, my ability to reach some perfect “well-being” destination seems impossible. However, creating harmony through self-reflection, considering my current and desired state of well-being, and identifying small changes seems much more achievable.
Work-Life Harmony leveraging Strengths
Finally, as many Gallup coaches shared during the sessions this week, our individual strengths can play a major role and have a tremendous impact on our well-being. Even as a certified Gallup Strengths Coach, I had not previously considered (even for myself), how my strengths might be impacting my well-being. My top five Gallup strengths are Communication, Maximizer, Ideation, Input, and Strategic.
With communication as my number one strength, being remote can be a big challenge for me. As a leader while I do have regular meetings with team members, I don’t get as much of the casual conversation and interesting discussions. At some point during this past year, I began writing articles, insights, and now my own blog posts. This writing, I now realize, is my means of remedying my well-being using my communication strength in the written form. Even if only a handful of people read these posts/articles, they are meaningful and impactful for my own sense of well-being and harmony. Simply put, when I write, I feel more fulfilled and better as a result.
I intend to take this concept back to my employees and look at their strengths in the context of well-being and both coach and brainstorm ideas to help them achieve their appropriate work-life harmony. I encourage everyone to consider how they might use their strengths in the context of well-being to achieve better work-life harmony. I look forward to reading the new book “Wellbeing at Work” by Jim Harter which builds on these key concepts. For those that have not taken Gallup’s strengths assessment, I highly encourage you to do so.
As always, I welcome any comments and feedback on these topics. Thank you for taking the time to read this article.
Originally published at http://jessicatietjen.com on February 23, 2021.