Human Resources

The Myth of Work-Life Balance

View time as a ‘wheel’ and determine how many sections to devote to each aspect of life.

August 18, 2013
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Few companies are in a position to be as generous or flexible with their employees as Yahoo!

But new CEO Marissa Mayer’s major policy changes on parental leave and telecommuting have sparked a lot of discussion about the evolving relationship between employer and employee, and the oft-cited “work-life balance.”

The topic is bandied about at credit union conferences, too.

A speaker at an executive women’s leadership conference Suzanne Oliver recently attended panned the concept of “work-life balance.” Oliver, chair of the CUNA Human Resources/Training & Development Council, agrees it’s an improper goal.

“It isn’t possible,” says Oliver, senior vice president of educational services and governmental affairs at $3.4 billion asset Mountain America Credit Union in West Jordan, Utah.

Oliver isn’t being pessimistic. Rather, she supports the perspective motivational speaker Dr. John Rhodes offered Mountain America staff recently.

Employees should consider their available time as a “wheel” and constantly re-evaluate how many sections they dedicate to each aspect of their lives, he says.

“I love this idea because it’s about picking and choosing, depending on the stage of life you’re in,” she continues. “Sometimes you must give more attention to work. Other times your personal life is a higher priority.”

Oliver lauds Mountain America for recognizing those opportunities for employees as well. During the lead-up to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, for example, massive freeway expansion projects made getting to work an excruciating experience.

In response, Mountain America initiated a telecommuting program for some of its call center employees.

The successful program continues to this day, and now includes staff from other areas, too.

Mountain America recently garnered its fourth “Best Companies to Work For” award from Utah Business magazine, and the state’s Department of Workforce Services bestowed on the credit union the 2012 Utah Work/Life Award.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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