The “New Normal”: Creating Workplaces that Embody and Support Work-Life Balance

The “New Normal”: Creating Workplaces that Embody and Support Work-Life Balance

Many people are talking about the “new normal” and what our lives will look like after COVID-19. Rather than returning to old beliefs, systems and ways of working, I view this time as an opportunity to internalize new beliefs, create new systems and ways of working, building on the lessons learned so far and based on the vision of a world that works for everyone.

One area that I feel strongly about is Work-Life Balance. Having almost burnt out several times in my life I know what it is like to feel SOoo tired and to push through fatigue to finish that one last “thing”, instead of listening to my body and taking a break. I’ve also witnessed younger and younger women clients losing their passion and burning out. Perhaps you relate.

Did you know that burnout is reaching epidemic proportions worldwide?

In May of 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its classification of burnout from a medical condition to an occupational phenomenon. Their definition:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.” [1]

The importance of this change in the WHO classification is that it acknowledges that organizations and their leaders have a role to play in reducing workplace stress; rather than burnout being perceived as a personal medical issue, a sign of weakness and something to be hidden and ashamed of.

To learn more about how to know if you’re burning out and what to do about it see: https://pamela-thompson.com/how-to-know-if-youre-burning-out-what-to-do-about-it/

Work-Life Balance

When you think about work-life balance what thoughts or feelings come up for you? You may have negative feelings about the term and believe it isn’t possible OR you may dream of living a life where you no longer are feeling there is so much to do and so little time but instead are feeling healthy, happy and fulfilled.

For me, work-life balance is both personal and elusive. Personal, because what work-life balance looks and feels like for me is different from what work-life balance looks and feels like for you.  Elusive because many people speak about work-life balance and yet few are able to achieve or maintain it.

How can you as a leader integrate work-life balance into your own life and model it for others in the workplace? Here are some “tried and true” strategies:

Personally:

  • Count up the number of hours you typically work in a week. Is it more than 50? (Obviously sometimes)
  • Make a commitment to reduce the number of hours you typically work weekly (choose a realistic number to begin with)
  • Experiment with a work week when you reduce your hours. Then notice how you feel. You may wish to journal about it
  • Make a clear differentiation between work and home time. For example, before leaving work say to yourself, I am now leaving work behind, or pick a point on your drive or walk home where you make a conscious choice to release work and step into “your” time
  • Begin incorporating mindfulness practices into your personal life; e.g.
    • on awakening while lying in bed do a body scan from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet noticing any tension, discomfort, heaviness. Breathe into those areas of tension, discomfort or heaviness and set the intention to release and let go of them.
    • Start doing mindfulness walking meditations 3 times/week for 30 minutes each time.[2] Some of my clients do this at lunch hour. Others after work. Notice how you feel before, during and after. Is there a cumulative effect?
  • Schedule blocks of time in your calendar for you (e.g. work out at the gym, yoga class, lunch with a friend, concert with your partner)
  • Unplug at least 90 minutes before retiring and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

Organizationally:

  • At work, encourage people to take breaks
  • Set clear expectations with your direct reports and colleagues related to NOT checking emails and answering texts on evenings and weekends. Share with them the importance of them taking time for themselves and their families
  • Have short meetings (up to 60 minutes max) with clearly defined agendas, and expectations so people know why they’re there, how to prepare and the expected results
  • Encourage people to take lunch breaks
  • Support people to take regular vacations and to NOT check their emails while on vacation (set up a buddy system so staff and managers can feel that the key aspects of their positions are being covered while they are away)
  • Have yoga classes and/or a gym on site and participate in the classes/use the facilities yourself.

What strategies have you found helpful to create more balance in your life on a personal level and if you have a team, on an organizational level? I welcome your comments and suggestions below. Feel free to share this post with others.

*updated from May 2, 2016 blog post


[1] https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/

[2]  A tool from Easter psychology that I have found extremely useful for getting “out of my head” and into my body is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. Mindfulness practices focus on the senses and feeling sensations and emotions in our bodies. When we do a mindfulness walking meditation, we feel the ground beneath our feet, we feel the breeze against our face, we feel the cool air going from our nostrils down into our lungs. We smell the scent of salt or the aroma of lavender in the air and observe the scenery in front of us. We try to stay out of our minds and experience our senses. Rather than spend a walk in nature constantly thinking and processing all the things we have to do, instead we stay present and experience nature and all of its beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.

A Gift and a Special Offer

A Gift and a Special Offer

During these times of intense change you may be having difficulty focusing, feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster; one day energized and feeling those creative juices flowing and the next feeling sad, low in energy and like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You are not alone.

Researching and working with clients on change and transition for the past decade or more, what I know is that this is all part of the impact change has on us. Increasing your understanding of change and how you respond to it, and having tools and strategies to support you to move through it more easily can enhance your change experience.

The Gift

As my gift to you, I’m sharing the video of a recent virtual participatory workshop I facilitated through Female Wave of Change. If you would like some support to better understand and move through a personal change you are experiencing, this gift may be just “what the doctor ordered”. 

Here’s what you’ll receive. You will:

  • Learn what happens when we resist change
  • Discover a practical 5-step framework you can use to embrace change and generate creative solutions
  • Apply that framework to a major personal change you are currently facing.

Based on evidence from neuroscience, the health promoting and healing benefits of the arts, eastern psychology, and my own journey and work with clients around the world, the “Art of Change” Framework and Process can be your lifesaver during this time.

Here you go! 

Special Offer

I am currently offering the one-hour workshop Embracing Change: Moving from Fear and Resistance Toward Clarity and Confidence as a stand-alone virtual workshop to groups and organizations at a special rate.  It can be delivered as a “Lunch and Learn” or be the first part of a 2-part process for Leadership Teams, Project Teams, Boards, Community Groups … . This workshop focuses on personal change as change starts with each of us. Understanding how you and others on your team respond to change is invaluable.

Part 2 in the process is a 2-hour virtual workshop How to Move from Fear and Resistance Toward Creative Solutions during Times of Intense Change that focuses on organizational change.

The workshop helps to:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Improve understanding
  • Increase morale
  • Promote engagement
  • Improve focus and productivity
  • Support collaboration

Leadership teams, project teams, boards, search committees have the opportunity to focus on a key change they are facing (e.g. new leadership, new culture, a change scenario to address something that is not working in their organization), apply the 5-step Art of Change Framework to a key organizational change they are facing, and through this process generate creative solutions to address it.

Each workshop includes handouts. In Workshop 2 as part of the process, ideas and potential solutions generated during the workshop will be typed up and sent later to participants in a short report.

Both workshops are being delivered via zoom.

Contact me at pam@creativelivingcommunity.com to set up a time for us to chat so I can learn more about you, your group and your needs.

Why so many Organizational Change Initiatives Fail & the Secret to Helping them Succeed

Why so many Organizational Change Initiatives Fail & the Secret to Helping them Succeed

Did you know that approximately 70% of organizational change initiatives fail? Why is that?

According to my own work on five continents and a cursory review of the literature, the main reason organizational change initiatives fail is because they do not adequately address the people side of change.

What do I mean by the people side of change?

People are at the heart of our organizations. They include everyone from the CEO, Senior Management Team, Middle Managers, Team Leaders and Employees. They also include key stakeholders.

How do you address the people side of change?

CEO and Senior Management Team –The key ingredient here is for CEOs and their Senior Management teams to be clear on why they are initiating a change – be it a culture change, reorganization, leadership change, new strategic plan … AND communicate that “why” clearly down through all layers of an organization. That said it is not enough to communicate the change, it is important for others in the organization to take ownership of the change (more about that later).

Another important aspect is that a CEO and their Senior Management Team understand change and how they typically respond to it. Some key questions to think about are: On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you typically respond to change? One being “It scares me to death” and 10 being “I thrive on it”. My experience has been that most leaders rate themselves from 8 to 10. They tend to thrive on change. However, there may be others on their teams who are 4s or 5s. If so, it is important to be aware of that, open up the conversation, and discuss how those folks may be supported throughout the change process.

When a CEO is open about change, acknowledges that many of us fear change, provides opportunities for their people to learn how to embrace change versus resist it and models this behavior for others, it improves the chances of success of an organizational change initiative.

How do you embrace versus resist change?

Based on more than 25 years of consulting and coaching with individuals and organizations on 5 continents, I’ve designed a 5-step process called “The Art of Change Framework” to support leaders and their organizations to embrace change. It is underpinned by the belief that “embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities”. It is also supported by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and organizational development.

This process is best implemented on the “front end” of an organizational change initiative and lays the foundation for that initiative. It works best in an experiential workshop(s) format where leaders and their teams have the opportunity to learn about change together, explore how they respond to change and why, and receive tools to support them as they move into a change process.

The Value Add?  When people learn about change and how they respond to it, that not only supports their engagement, motivation, productivity and positivity in the workplace, it also improves their personal lives.

I’ve included an excerpt from “The Art of Change Framework: A Guide to Personal and Organizational Change” below to illustrate the differential impacts between embracing versus resisting change (full document available at https://pamela-thompson.com/).

What happens in Ourselves, Our Relationships and Our Workplaces when We Resist Change versus Embrace it?

OURSELVES

Resist Embrace
We view change as a threat We view change as an
opportunity to learn and grow and as a creative process that opens us up to new
opportunities
We feel:
Angry
Depleted
Low in energy
Victimized
The increased stress over time
negatively impacts our health; can
lead to chronic illness and
negatively affect our career paths
We feel:
Open
Excited
Energized
Nonjudgmental

Over time we are more relaxed,
more flexible and open to creative
ideas. Our health may be positively impacted as we feel supported by
those around us and that we are
contributing to something greater than ourselves; may positively
impact our career paths
In our interactions with others we:
Are not totally present
Are judgmental
May be argumentative
In our interactions with others we:
Are present
Are mindful

Seek to understand and support
others

OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Resist Embrace
Strained
Reactive
Judgmental

Characterized by
increased conflict
We feel alone,
victimized and that others don’t
understand us
Open
Responsive
Curious

Characterized by increased understanding, creativity and compassion
We feel part of something and
supported

OUR WORKPLACES

Increased conflict
“us” versus “them”
mentality
Reduced morale
Reduced engagement
Little innovation
Increased illness and absenteeism
Negative impact on the bottom line

Increased cooperation,
collaboration and synergy
Increased morale
Increased engagement
Creativity and Innovation
Reduced absenteeism
Positive impact on the bottom line

As leaders of teams, organizations or community groups, it is essential that you understand change and how you respond to it and also understand your team members and how they typically respond to change. By engaging in facilitated experiential workshops on the Art of Change, the understanding among team members will increase and resistance toward a change process, be it a reorganization, new leadership, new project or new strategic plan, will decrease.

Providing Opportunities for people from various layers of the organization to input into the change process such as answering the question: How will the change affect me? And How can we as a team best support and positively contribute to the change initiative? AND the leadership taking those responses into consideration, is important. This includes input from key stakeholders which may be obtained through telephone interviews, focus groups, facilitated workshops … . Providing opportunities for people to input into the change process not only may provide interesting suggestions and perspectives, it will also build ownership for the change. People by nature, want to be respected, valued and feel like they belong; and enabling them to input into a change process supports these basic needs.

My experience has been that when we provide the opportunity for people at various levels to input into a change process, they often contribute ideas and suggestions that senior management is not aware of/cannot see from their organizational vantage point.

In a recent episode of “The Art of Change” radio talk show, my guest, Shelley Gilberg, partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers, and experienced organizational change expert, noted that one reason many change initiatives fail is because “we cut off support too early to sustain change initiatives” – For more details check out: https://www.spreaker.com/user/bbm_global_network/the-art-of-change-show-9. Providing people at various layers of the organization the opportunity to receive training and support and instituting “check points” along the way for people to identify how they feel and why is important. This is also supported by Brene Brown’s interviews with a large sample of leaders from both public and private sector organizations.

In Summary

There is strong evidence that the reason why many organizational change initiatives fail is because they do not adequately address the people side of change. When we provide opportunities for people from various layers of an organization, as well as key stakeholders to input into a change process, when the CEO and Senior Management Team are clear on why they are initiating a new change and communicate that effectively throughout an organization and model positive change behaviors, and when leaders and their teams from various levels in an organization are provided the opportunity in experiential workshops to learn about change and explore how they respond to it, the chances of success of an organizational change initiative increases.

Learning and implementing the 5-step Art of Change Framework helps you as a leader understand how you respond to change and is a tool to support you and your team(s) to embrace it. In these challenging and uncertain times, now more than ever, we need proven processes to support individuals and leaders in communities, governments and organizations to create successful change initiatives and through those efforts make a positive difference in the world.

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