Does the concept of work/life balance make you cringe? Do you envision the scales of justice meeting out the exact amount of minutes you should perform work duties, spend time on social media and engage in personal life activities? Is there is a solution?

Nobody seems to get the fact that it is all about your life. One size doesn’t fit all — balance for one may be a disaster for another. Yet everyone seems to preach about how important work/life balance is and insist that you pay attention to how much time you portion out to each area of your life instead of looking at your life as a whole.

The National Bureau Economic Research reports from a 2014 study done by economists, Daniel Hamermesh and Elena Stancanelli; “American employees put in longer workweeks than Europeans. They are also more likely to work at undesirable times such as nights and weekends.” They go on to argue that the phenomena of long hours and strange hours are possibly cultural – Americans simply enjoy working at strange times. Notice the cultural judgement built into this survey with the use of descriptors such as “undesirable” and “strange” times.

Performance management: The secret ingredient

The truth lies somewhere in the middle for employees and leadership alike. Balance is subjective and begs the question, what is balance and for whom? And what role does it play in performance management?

Is it possible that for the 29 percent of Americans that work weekends and 27 percent that take work home noted in the study, that is balance for them? Do employees really dream of balanced work, family and leisure time or does the answer actually lie in the concept of integration?

You cannot look at person’s life as two simplistic parts – work and personal. It is much more complex than that. Yet that is exactly how the business world looks at the workforce. Wouldn’t it be of greater value to determine what can be done to make an employee’s life while at work less chaotic and more engaging so they can integrate their work into their overall life goals and objectives, improving wellbeing, focus on the job and productivity?

Eliminate the “balance tension”

Rather than focusing on creating work/life balance programs, focus on the workplace environment itself, creating a holistic atmosphere that engages, encourages and supports the objectives of the workforce. If employees feel like one of their objectives

should be work/life balance that puts an unbearable tension on their time considerations and constraints, preventing them from properly focusing, and not spending quality time in any aspect of their life, including work. Balance becomes one more stressor in an already hectic life.

Stop chasing balance. In the real world employees want the freedom to make choices about how they spend their work/personal time. They want to decide how to best use their time based on what is expected of them at work and how to best meet their needs for family and personal time. They want to integrate all aspects of their life instead of compartmentalizing it. When you acknowledge that balance isn’t the answer it was once thought to be, you remove the tension and stress for employees thinking they have to allocate certain amounts of time to creating a perfectly balanced life — and their wellbeing and performance improve. Keep in mind, for some taking work home on the weekends is balance. For others, a strict 9 am to 5 pm schedule is ideal, and yet for others, something in between is where they find balance.

Create an engaging workplace environment. Examine the physical workplace environment to see if it is welcoming to employees who will be physically present in that space on a daily basis. After all, they and you spend at least half of your waking hours there five days per week. Is the place clean, well-lit and conducive to focus or is it noisy, chaotic and distracting? This includes everything from the color of paint on the walls to uplifting artwork where appropriate and even music. It’s not just what they do – it’s also about setting up the environment to help the workforce be more focused on what you want them to focus upon and perform better. The workplace environment can enhance what they are doing or throw up obstacles – it can change the productivity and the people in it.

Eliminate the “overwhelmed employee” feeling by improving the workplace environment, and help employees focus and relieve stress. Think outside the box by bringing in a stress relieving "therapy dog" or take an ice cream break served by management. This single step will do more for integration of work and personal life than anything else you can do. If an employee wants to come to work, is valued and encouraged while there, they will be more focused and productive while there and will be happier when they leave.

You can engineer the workplace environment to be more welcoming, more productive, engaging and focused so employees enjoy their work experience more allowing them to integrate their work and personal life activities rather than mandating balance.

© Pat Heydlauff, all rights reserved

Author's Bio: 

Pat Heydlauff, a “productive environment” expert, speaker and consultant designs workplace environments that fuel focus to move beyond engagement, maximize productivity and yield future sustainability. She is author the new eBook series, 21 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement as well as published books, Feng Shui, So Easy a Child Can Do It, The Way We Go, Your Roadmap to a Better Future and Selling Your Home with a Competitive Edge. Contact her at 561-408-2708 or