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TED Talk Tuesday: Understanding Work-Life Balance

Jeff Miller

Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, Cornerstone OnDemand

This is part of our monthly TED Talk Tuesday series, spotlighting can't-miss TED Talks and their key takeaways. You can learn more about our partnership with TED here.

There's no such thing as a perfect work-life balance, but to achieve a lifestyle that makes employees highly functional both at work and at home, they must first set realistic expectations, author Nigel Marsh says. An expert in the intersection of work and life, Marsh says that employers don't always understand the intricacies of what it means to truly achieve work-life balance, which sets even the most progressive, people-focused employers up for failure.

For companies that want to help their workers be more balanced, it'll take more than casual Fridays or corporate perks, Marsh explains. Empowering employees to strive for and attain work-life balance requires a mindset shift—one that organizations can help their employees make.

Watch the video below and read on for three key takeaways from Marsh's talk.

"The first step in solving any problem is acknowledging the reality of your situation."

One of the biggest challenges that employees face when looking to lead a more balanced personal and professional life is that they don't realistically assess their current situation. To avoid the extremes, individuals have to objectively judge their day-to-day routines and identify which area of their life is being neglected, Marsh recommends. And companies can help here—insist that employees complete an honest work-life balance evaluation on a regular basis that will reveal how well they're juggling different aspects of their lives.

"We have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries that we want in our life."

Though many modern companies aim to be mindful of their employees needs by offering flexible work hours, providing numerous benefits and injecting fun team-building activities into office life, it's not entirely up to companies to ensure work-life balance is maintained—it's up to employees, Marsh says.

If there are specific things that companies should be doing but aren't, employees should take it upon themselves to point out what's missing, and ask for it. Organizational leaders, meanwhile, should encourage this dialogue, be open-minded when receiving these suggestions from workers, and make an effort to implement suggested changes when possible.

"Being more balanced doesn't mean dramatic upheaval in your life."

Work-life balance sounds like a grandiose concept, but employees don't have to make massive changes to feel a difference, according to Marsh. Something as simple as shutting off a business email account in the evenings and on weekends can prevent work from overflowing into free time, for example.

Small steps towards a more balanced lifestyle could make a significant difference when compounded, so company leaders and managers should encourage their workers to find little ways to make their days better. This is where those corporate retreats or bagel Wednesdays could have an impact, as long as they don't replace more meaningful conversations about work-life balance.

Header photo: TED

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