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Work Life balance 3

The Japanese way is a good example of another approach to work life balance. I always thought that the common perception of work life balance through the introduction of life activities to balance the stressed work activities is wrong in principle. Work hard play hard is a hazardous approach. Instead, work well play well can maintain balance of body and mind.

You may wish to re-visit my two earlier articles on work life balance on 6 February 2005 and 7 February 2005.

It is good to know the Japanese way of people management by sharing family and personal affairs with co-workers. In many modern cities, such as Hong Kong, people do not normally mix their work and life activities. Some are very mindful of letting others know about personal affairs, and take careful steps to segregate work life and personal life. There is a theory that one should not take the work matters back home, and should not let family affairs get in the way of work.

However, human is a being with good memory, reasoning and analytical talent, and the special ability to correlate various facts and actions. We live through work and personal activities all in a day. It is impossible to switch off your mind after work, or vice versa not to think of personal affairs at work. One typical effect is our emotion. If you have an unhappy work day, you may have a bad mood back home subconsciously. When you come back from a happy vacation, you will have more energy for work.

Work activities and life activities is a continuum in our daily life. They are not a dichotomy exclusive to one another. They are not on opposite ends of a seesaw. Thus when in imbalance, balance cannot simply be restored by having more activities at the other end. It is like bending a stick. If the stick is bent too much to one side, it cannot become straight by bending too much to the other side, which will break the stick. We need gentle moves to get it right again.

My view of a work life balance is a fusion of work and life activities. There is nothing to worry about bringing work home. In fact, your family may be interested in what you do, and you can safely share your joy and frustration of work with them. I heard many stories that children are very excited and proud on what their parents have done at work. Vice versa, some sharing of family affairs with co-workers is good for work atmosphere, which is a good remedy for work stress.

On the practical side, we have continuous learning. There is merit in spending life activities on learning, which may be something concerned with work requirements, or just the broadening of knowledge in a relevant field. We can also have life activities after work with co-workers, chatting away on laughters, current affairs and inescapably work affairs. Some colleagues have good friends who are their co-workers. It is enjoyable to involve friends and co-workers in family gatherings, celebrations and outings. It can strengthen family ties as well as help resolve work conflict and promote mutual understanding. All these contribute much to work life balance. The worst is to put work and life in two separate worlds. In such scenario, if you are depressed from work, you just want to escape to the other side instead of solving the problem; or when there is a family problem, there is no one to cry to.

Some members suggested that colleagues should go out often for a drink, or form a book club to share reading interest; or like what we had a few years back: some work life balance seminars among colleagues to share the joy of hobbies. Such mixing of work and life is a good way to maintain balance.