For years, the phrase “work-life balance” has helped compartmentalize two important parts of our daily lives. It’s become clear in the digital age, however, that these areas are not mutually exclusive. Fulfillment comes about at the integration of career and personal goals, not by keeping them separate.
There’s no question engineers, project managers, and others working in the technology industry must be incredibly diligent with their work, and often face long hours in getting projects completed on time and above expectations. The story of how Steve Jobs demanded his engineers work tirelessly for weeks to deliver the first iPhone may have set the tone for fighting obsolescence in a rapidly changing field, but it was by no means a sustainable plan of action.
When work and personal life are properly integrated, individuals are more productive, healthier, more engaging in the workplace, and less likely to make mistakes. But when one area dominates the focus, the reverse is true and “burn out” occurs.
Modern technology makes it possible for many of us to access the workplace 24/7. Some companies are even built around it. So there is no question the boundaries of personal and professional are already blurry, but the inclination to assume work life must be “balanced” by counteracting it with “personal life” misses the point of pursuing fulfilment in either.
Fortune stated as early as 2015 that “Work-life balance is dead.”
“I think it’s just life,” says Stephen Tang, president and CEO of the University City Science Center in West Philadelphia. “If people enjoy what they do, there’s no need to draw strict lines.”
Companies like DornerWorks have found that taking a more humanistic approach to the workplace is one way to build satisfaction, effectiveness, and loyalty among employees. By emphasizing a collegial atmosphere, offering flexible hours and opportunities for staff to share knowledge and socialize, such companies are showing the industry how both work and play can come together in harmony.
We all have responsibilities to face, and some handle them differently than others. In an IOSR Journals study, researchers make the claim that those who feel they are missing out their personal lives feel drained and distracted while they are at work. And those feelings can then lead to exhaustion, disruption of relationships with family and friends, loss of enjoyment, and increased stress.
The bleeding of one of these domains into the other is often blamed for poor performance and lackluster enthusiasm. Office parties and morale-boosting incentives can lend themselves to improving the situation in the short-term, but even when companies do implement policies that promote a healthier integration between personal and professional life, there’s no guarantee they will be accepted or effective.
So what is effective?
The answer can be found in the habits of those who truly feel fulfilled at work: Those who feel their time is as valued by their employer as they value it themselves. They tend to understand that work and life are just simply life, and what matters is the opportunity to do one’s best in any focus.
As seen in countless lists of the most thriving companies around the world. There are three areas those with the greatest employee satisfaction have in common.
A culture than emphasizes working when work needs to be done, and not by an arbitrarily set schedule, goes a long way to promoting wellness and satisfaction on the job without sacrificing productivity.
“I love the ability to be able to come in late if I have an early morning appointment, or leave early for the same reason, without having to use time off,” engineer Steven Diemer says of the system at DornerWorks,
The company is one of a growing number who place more value on principle and performance. While DornerWorks employees are available during core hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m, they can arrange their schedule around those hours in the way that best meets their personal situation. Providing even more flexibility, employees may take every other Friday off as long as they get their 80 hours work in prior to that Friday.
Just as the right tools can make it easier to achieve success on a particular project, the right schedule and company culture can do the same for operational goals.
“Personally I feel like a flexible schedule allows me to focus on work when I need to focus on work, but allows me to still take care of the home stuff when things come up,” says engineer Greg Nowak. “If this was a strictly 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and I had to schedule a vacation day to wait for my cable guy, I’d burn up all my vacation time not actually taking vacation.”
After analyzing several million anonymous reviews submitted by those who work for Fortune 500 companies, business trends publication Fast Company released a list of the top 25 organizations where work and life are integrated to the greatest satisfaction of staff. Of particular interest to Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources at Indeed, was the diversity among those brands with the highest scores.
“With transportation, energy, consumer products, tech, media, and more in the top, it shows that any company in any industry can offer their employees some version of work-life balance,” Wolfe says.
At a recent lunch cookout, DornerWorks staff and friends mingled around the recently expanded campus, sharing stories of their work and enjoying the tastes and smells of the summer and a fired up grill. Events like this are important to the company’s culture, and strengthen the bonds of the engineers, project managers, and others who might otherwise be digging deep into the world of embedded technology. It shows the difference concentrations of work and personal fulfillment are not in binary opposition, but rather integrated and reliant on each other.
A work environment imbued with sustainability, one that’s empathetic to the needs of employees, is one that keeps those individuals happy with their work, and their lives. This is a fact engineer and recently new father Nate Bowen perhaps appreciates more than most right now, as being a part of the DornerWorks team means he can contribute meaningful work to a growing company and spend plenty of quality time with his growing family.