The ‘On/Off’ Balance
MSLGROUP’s commitment is to be our clients’ most trusted advisors, source for unbound creativity, engagement and value in the always-on conversation. While this statement implies that we now live in a world where information never stops, how can we set the boundaries between the time we will dedicate to the clients, and to our private life?
Working in the communication industry, one is tempted to say that full dedication to the client is actually part of the job. However, how are you actually supposed to propose big and innovative ideas to your client if you don’t have enough “time-off” to reset your mind and fuel your imagination? Because big ideas come from the modern art exhibition you saw on Thursday evening, from the passionate discussion you had with a friend over a lunch on Monday or from the funny scene you witnessed at Starbucks last time you were there, working remotely. Inspiration and innovation is all around us. As creative storytellers for the conversation age we need to be able to grasp it from the outside world, channel it, and use it to fuel our work.
But how can we tread this fine line between our dedication to the client and our need for “time off”? When is our “always-on” availability starting to be counterproductive? Where lies the right balance between productivity and creativity?
Less is more?
When you look at the situation in the Nordics, it’s not about working less but working better.
“What matters to us is that our employees make high quality, on-time deliveries to our clients – how they do this is essentially up to them. For example, many of our employees with young children leave a bit early each day to pick up their children from day-care, and then work from home later that evening if they need to finish a project. And it is worth mentioning that we have an equal gender distribution of prolonged parental leave – this is something we really strive for and actively work to achieve. By sharing family responsibilities, men and women have equal opportunities to build their careers. Naturally, you will need to work late at times due to client circumstances and the nature of particular projects. Most of the time, though, you will be able to plan your time well. Flexibility and work-life balance are key factors for us to remain one of the most attractive workplaces in the Nordic consulting industry.” Says Elin Hartelius, HR Business Partner and our agency JKL Nordics
Besides giving you the step back you need to stay creative, working saner hours also enables people to go the extra mile possible when a crisis or a rush time occurs. It is the kind of situation which can quickly become very stressful if you already work to your full capacities. Because if the rope is constantly stretched, how can you stretch it even more without running the risk of breaking (it)?
Better care than cure
As a Talent Manager in the communication industry, I know our teams are coping with a great deal of stress every day. It is our responsibility to ensure that we create the proper environment for our people and avoid situations which can lead to burn-outs. Small steps at a time, we are dedicated to providing a healthier place to work. Rita Masini’s post on flexibility a few weeks ago tells you only the beginning of a long journey MSLGROUP has initiated to ensure the well-being of its people. However, as Isabelle Henkens, President of “ôm health and work” highlights, what we really need to focus on is “finding a sustainable efficiency”. For instance in this context, would a weekly 10 minutes shoulder massage at the office be considered as a lasting efficiency? Does it really have long term effects or does it rather feel like putting a plaster over a bleeding toe? It sure feels good (for a day?) but we should be cautious not to fall into the short term trap.
Indeed, whatever flexible and inspiring environment the company strives for, it will be useless if not supported by a healthy attitude. No solution will come from “somewhere”: it has to come from each of us and from us all as a community. While the company is looking at addressing work life balance solutions, it seems obvious that sustainable solutions can only be self-generated. We all know Gandhi’s famous quote “be the change you want to see in the world”. In fact, even our digital guru for Asia Gaurav Mishra often takes the time to completely disconnect from the frenzied digital world we live in. Whatever situation you are in, don’t fall into the trap of inertia. If you don’t feel good about a situation, start making choices. We can all feel overwhelmed from times to times and perhaps with 2012 just around the corner, this is actually just the right time to (re)think our ON and OFF balance.