As a leader, I look back at all the ways through the years I have learned not to do things. It is generally easier to remember the bad than the good. When it comes to work-life balance, I can say that the pendulum has swung both directions before.
On the one hand, there are those that believe that there are hours that soldiers should be at work, and those hours revolve around the leader. If the leader is in the office, then the soldiers are there too. This seems to be regardless of whether or not the soldiers have anything to accomplish. That is irrelevant, and so is their motivation.
The other side of the pendulum is an environment where people don’t feel an attachment because they hardly recognize they are part of an organization. Elements are so decentralized that people come and go at a whim, and answer to no one. Family time may dominate over work time, meaning it is unlikely to see anyone in the office at all.
The goal of the work-life balance is to bring both of these together into a sensible process. There are many ways to do this, but some basic concepts which should never be ignored.
First, create the environment that people want to work in, and they will be motivated to work within it. If the environment is unsafe, dirty, or provides no satisfaction, people will care less and less to be a part of the organization.
Second, recognize that different people have different motivations. While it is not the job of the leader to appeal to every motivation, it is worth recognizing that the motivations will vary, and therefore a one-size fits all approach will not always result in the best outcome.
Third, just because a leader can tell people what to do, does not ignore the fact that people should understand why it is being done. Explaining a process, the importance, and how the soldiers are playing a role to directly contribute towards success allows people to take ownership of a process, and therefore care more.
Once the baseline is understood, a leader should shape the environment based on the organizational goals. An Infantry unit will differ from a Maintenance unit, and that should be taken into consideration.
Successful approaches usually have a meeting link up to provide priorities for the day, followed by a clearly articulated list of responsibilities. Once the day’s responsibilities are complete, if there is nothing left for service members to perform, then the responsibility is placed on their shoulders to perform the necessary actions. This may include going back to the gym to work out again, taking care of personal issues, getting medical checkups required, or improving themselves academically.
It serves little benefit to keep soldiers at work if there is nothing to perform. If a leader chooses to do so, it should be after considering all of the options, and recognizing that there is a goal in doing so. An example of this is to keep people at work in order to perform a follow up task in a certain time frame. In this case, depending on how much time until that task is able to be started on, establish a time for soldiers to be back no later then.
The whiteboard approach has worked wonders. Place all tasks on the whiteboard for the day. Once complete, subordinates provide the update to leaders. Leaders check where necessary and release as appropriate. In this way, the guidance for the day is clearly articulated.
There will come the time when the amount of work required will exceed the number of hours usually worked. If this is the case, either articulate early on that this will be a late day to subordinates, or establish a cut off time when work will end for the day regardless of completion. There is often no end to work that can be done, but that does not mean people should work to no end.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that there is a payoff to not having soldiers sit around all the time. If they demonstrate responsibility, they will take care of the many personal issues that come up throughout the average work day. In this way, when they are critically needed to perform a task, they are less likely to have to leave down the road.
A work-life balance instills confidence in subordinates and can improve morale, esprit de corps, and the overall work ethic of one’s subordinates.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.