Work-life balance requires work

Successful women acknowledge that work-life balance is more of a path to a goal than the goal itself.

Publikacja: 08.09.2023 02:58

Work-life balance requires work

Foto: Aleksander Zieliński

Good work-life balance practices were the topic of a debate that opened a special evening with the portal during the Economic Forum in Karpacz.

This is a new portal of “Rzeczpospolita” daily that focuses on women professionally successful in various fields. Their example can be a valuable source of inspiration not only for ladies.

This source of inspiration and practical advice can be found in the participants of our debate in Karpacz — experienced managers who did not hide the fact that achieving work-life balance was (and sometimes still is) a big challenge for them, especially as they are passionate about their work.

Allow yourself to let go

Anna Zejdler, head of the portal, wondered whether work-life balance, understood as the separation of both spheres, is at all possible today. Especially when it comes to women, who — due to family responsibilities — find it more difficult to manage not only their time but also their guilty conscience.

Agnieszka Kępińska-Sadowska, Communications and External Relations Director for Central and Eastern Europe at Haleon, spoke about this challenge, admitting that it was not easy for her to go to the Forum in Karpacz just when her older daughter was starting school. According to her, it is impossible to achieve a perfect work-life balance, so it is better to ensure a successful professional and private life, focusing on the most important things in both areas.

In order to do so (and improve your work-life balance), it is worth asking ourselves two questions: first, whether we allow ourselves to let go of certain tasks; and second, whether we allow ourselves to let go of perfectionism?

The importance of being able to prioritise and let go of some tasks was also highlighted by Małgorzata Krzywonos, Professor at the Wrocław University of Economics. As she stressed, in taking care of her work-life balance, she tries not to schedule work on weekends or require others to do so (although this is not easy with academics who sometimes teach classes then). She also makes sure to “seize the moment” by focusing on what she is doing in the moment. Her recipe for work-life balance is also hobbies and finding pleasure in the little things.

You can also impose certain rules on yourself that help to maintain a certain balance in life. This is what Renata Bem, Director General of UNICEF Poland, does, who didn’t hide that she herself is a contradiction of work-life balance; she lives and breathes her work, which is also her great passion. However, she makes sure she finds time every morning for a long walk with the dogs, although her thoughts are usually at work then, too.

The important role of the employer

According to Anna Rulkiewicz, President of Lux Med Group, it is difficult to have a single definition of work-life balance, as everyone understands it differently. She herself believes that she has achieved this balance today, although — even at weekends and during holidays — she does not part with her company mobile phone, and her children have become accustomed to their mother taking calls from the company at those times. She does, however, take a month’s holiday in the summer and during her days off, including weekends. She makes sure to spend the time together with her family, which is enhanced by their shared passion for sailing. However, Anna Rulkiewicz made no secret of the fact that it took her a long time (20 years) to reach her current work-life balance and that it also involved many sacrifices. As she recalled, she took the helm of Lux Med Group three months after giving birth to her third child...

Beata Drzazga, a well-known entrepreneur and founder of several companies, including the large medical company BetaMed, also spoke about the challenges of work-life balance when combining intensive work with her role as a mother of three children. She also highlighted the ability to make choices and give up some things, which at a certain stage in life can also mean giving up the work-life balance that many young people seek.

The achievement of work-life balance, however, is difficult for those who choose to start up a business. – “Before thinking about work-life balance, it is necessary to ensure the company’s strong market position”, Beata Drzazga reminded. However, she pointed out that as an employer, she tries to make sure that her employees have this balance; therefore, she has introduced shorter working hours on Fridays, gives them a day off to celebrate their birthdays, and gives them the opportunity to start work a bit later on Mondays.

- “In work-life balance, a lot depends on the employer”, confirmed Monika Klaus-Piskała, Director of Pharmacoeconomics and Health Policy at MSD Poland, admitting that for some time, she has been planning not only her work, but also her free time, which she tries to spend with her family. And today, she can say that she has a work-life balance.

Stopping the run

Agnieszka Kępińska-Sadowska also spoke about the importance of employer support, including a flexible approach to place and time of work, arguing that work-life balance is the way rather than the direction. In her case, this path meant developing mindfulness or the ability to be here and now, and giving up doing several things at once. She also stressed that a workplace that allows remote working significantly helps to combine professional and private tasks.

According to Monika Klaus-Piskała, the introduction of a speak-up culture in the company also helps because it gives employees the opportunity to object to excessive workloads, especially when they interfere with important private matters.

Accepting such an opposition is often not easy for managers, especially if they themselves have problems with work-life balance. Many bosses are helped to address these issues by coaching, which, among other things, prompts them to stop chasing the time, and reflect on their values. Anna Rulkiewicz spoke of the benefits of her year-long collaboration with the London-based coach, admitting that it had allowed her to look at life differently. On her own, without the support of a coach, she would not have been able to do it, managing such a dynamic company as Lux Med. She didn’t hide the fact that her long experience in business, including being the head of Lux Med (she has been in charge of Lux Med since 2007), and clear principles developed in her relationship with her employer helped her to achieve her current work-life balance. As Anna Rulkiewicz emphasised, it is in the interest of the company to take care of the work-life balance of employees and to make sure they take holidays. – “You can’t work all the time, but you have to get to a certain point to understand this”, said the head of Lux Med Group.

Renata Bem admitted that, despite working with her coach, she has not changed her approach to her work, which still consumes her completely. Instead, the coach convinced her not to demand as much from others as she did from herself. However, it still costs her a lot to understand an employee who wants to take a break from official tasks after working hours.

Good work-life balance practices were the topic of a debate that opened a special evening with the portal during the Economic Forum in Karpacz.

This is a new portal of “Rzeczpospolita” daily that focuses on women professionally successful in various fields. Their example can be a valuable source of inspiration not only for ladies.

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