One crisp Vancouver morning prior to the pandemic, I found solace in a café, my thoughts oscillating between work and the world outside. An artist beside me was engrossed in shaping a bonsai tree. Our chat, which began with a simple nod of appreciation, soon transformed into the philosophy of growth within constraints.
This interaction was one of the catalysts for coming up with the Work-Life Bloom metaphor for my new book. Like that bonsai, we’re all navigating our space within the vast expanse of our lives, seeking the proper integration and the right to bloom.
“Work-life balance” and “employee engagement” have become entrenched in the corporate lexicon, but have we truly grasped their depth? Do they even mean what we say they do? Through Work-Life Bloom, I’ve tried to unravel these concepts and dig deeper than surface-level misinterpretations.
Globally, the lines between work and personal time have blurred. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has noted that in many countries, workers are experiencing longer hours and increased work intensity. This isn’t merely about the clock ticking away. It reflects how our professional endeavours and personal pursuits are becoming intertwined. As I’ve articulated in Work-Life Bloom, “Our lives shape our work; our work reciprocates in kind.” We’re not trying to balance two separate worlds; we’re in the midst of crafting a narrative where work and life harmoniously blend, each enriching the other.
True Engagement: Beyond Metrics
SHRM’s revelation that only 29% of employees truly feel “very satisfied” isn’t just a statistic; it reflects the modern workplace’s soul. In Work-Life Bloom, I’ve delved into the essence of engagement: “Life is a rollercoaster, with its highs and lows, twists and turns. Embrace its dynamism.” Genuine engagement transcends metrics. It’s about understanding the heartbeat of the people who make up the organization, their dreams and aspirations, and, sometimes, the silent sighs behind every desk or Zoom call from their home office.
Leadership in today’s world demands more than strategic acumen. It’s about empathy, genuinely listening, walking the corridors, and feeling the organization’s pulse. It’s about recognizing that our teams seek more than just a paycheque. They’re looking for purpose, for a space where their professional endeavours resonate with personal values. They yearn for a harmonious symphony where work and life play a melodious tune, not a single note of work or life.
The Evolution of the Workplace
The workplace isn’t just a physical space anymore; it’s a mindset, a blend of aspirations, commitments, and interactions. As I’ve reflected in Work-Life Bloom, the boundaries that once defined our professional and personal lives are becoming increasingly porous. We’re no longer switching between two modes; we’re constantly in a state of fusion, where work projects inspire dinner table conversations and a child’s innocent question sparks workplace innovation.
The Power of Authentic Connections
In today’s interconnected world, superficial engagement doesn’t cut it. That’s why I no longer believe that annual or semi-annual employee engagement assessments are doing us any good. It’s not about sending out surveys. It’s about the daily, authentic interactions that build trust and foster genuine connections. Work-Life Bloom delves into this, emphasizing the importance of leaders being present, not just in strategy meetings but in those impromptu coffee break chats, in understanding the factors that cultivate someone’s happiness or (unspoken) concerns.
The Role of Leaders in Crafting the Narrative
Leadership today isn’t about holding the reins tight; it’s about guiding, mentoring, and, sometimes, letting go. It’s about creating an environment through a better definition and implementation of work-life factors where individuals feel empowered to be their best. As I’ve written in Work-Life Bloom, “Leadership is as much about understanding as it is about guiding.” It’s about recognizing the potential in every team member, nurturing it, ensuring that the organizational narrative is inclusive, and resonating with every individual’s personal story.
Towards a Future of Flourishing Together
As we look ahead, the path is clear. We’re moving towards a future where work and life don’t compete but complement each other. Maybe we’re there already. Organizations aren’t just places of work but communities of growth, learning, and mutual respect.
Drawing from Work-Life Bloom, I envision a world where every individual, irrespective of their role, feels like they have the chance to bloom in both work and life—a world where employee engagement isn’t some ridiculous measurement and where work-life balance isn’t the goal.