Got Balance?


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons license


 – from the annual meeting of the Academy of Organizational and Occupational Psychiatry 

Companies have been giving lip service to the need to strike a balance between work and family for years. What struck me in listening to a group of occupational psychiatrists speak on the subject is how out of whack things have truly gotten. 

One psychiatrist told of a woman who asked on a Friday if she could have Monday off … to have a baby. Her boss, who somehow was unaware of her pregnancy, suggested she’d probably need more than a 1 day off. The woman agreed, and said she’d be in on Wednesday. She was … and proud of it … said psychiatrist Dr. David E. Morrison, founder of the business consulting firm, Morrison Associates, in Palatine, Ill. 

Workers’ lives get out of balance, typically by devoting too much time to work, for a variety of reasons – be it job insecurity in these harsh economic times, a mismatch between tasks and hours needed to get the job done, or nothing to go home to. Workers who lack competency or skills, or aren’t challenged at work, or are tired of a workplace in constant crisis may devote more time to self or dote on their families. 

The psychiatrists ticked off a litany of well-known health reasons for having balance between work, family and the often-ignored element of “self.” But Food Lion president Cathy Green, who’s been working with Dr. Morrison for 7 years to incorporate the concept at the East Coast grocery store chain, suggests there’s a business reason. 

“People with balance of work, family, and self deliver more to the bottom line of the company,” she told the group. The payoff lies in increased focus, productivity, and retention. Balanced workers also serve as role models for the next generation of corporate leaders, who want nothing to do with a 60- to 70-hour work week. 

Surprisingly, for the Food Lion worker who regularly puts in 70 hours a week or fires off Friday night e-mails with the expectation that subordinates will scurry into action over the weekend, there are consequences. 

“Accountability is what makes this come alive,” Green says. 

That means time with Dr. Morrison who visits the corporate offices 3 days every month and putting a development plan in place that holds them accountable for their “competency” in balancing work, family, and self. 

“Put something in someone’s performance appraisal that’s tied to their compensation and their potential future role they hold in this organization, it’s going to get their attention,” she says. 

The Friday night e-mail might still get written, but now it remains in draft form, ready to be sent Monday morning. Green acknowledges she can’t produce hard numbers to back up her stance on balanced employees but says it’s paid dividends in too many cases for it to be a coincidence. 

While physicians may opine about the long-term consequences of stress and a hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis sent into overdrive, Green has put the argument in terms that corporate America can understand – the bottom line. 

– Patrice Wendling (on Twitter @pwendl)

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1 Comment

Filed under IMNG, Primary care, Psychiatry

One response to “Got Balance?

  1. le

    nice read, thanks for sharing

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