Businesswoman Ester Banque, SVP of Bristol Myers Squibb, shares her tips for taking control of work-life balance. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to work from home, causing the lines between work and home to blur. Will you too want to revolutionize your work-life balance by learning how to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’?
Ester Banque discusses how the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ became very important to her when balancing her work and home lives. She emphasizes why the word ‘no’ isn’t a bad thing and can help you to say ‘yes’ to more important things in the future. […]
NOTES: Revolutionize Your Work-life Balance Saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No’
I have spent a significant part of my adult life trying to establish “work-life balance,” or, as the dictionary defines it, “… the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life.” I spent years trying to establish that balance, and no matter how hard I tried, one (usually work) took over the other.
I have a busy, demanding job, and I have a wife and two pre-teen daughters. All of them need me (and I, them). Something’s got to give.
From work-life balance to yes-no balance
So, in order to survive, I came up with a different approach. I found it far more useful, and much more attainable, to shift from a goal of “work-life” balance to a goal of “yes/no” balance, with work and life part of one totality. What this means is that while I might want to say “yes” to everything and “no” to nothing, I realize that’s not possible.
As my kids get older, I find they need me differently—as more of an advisor, supporter, or cheerleader than caretaker.– Ester Banque
The key to this alternative approach is to prioritize and learn to say “no” in order to be able to say “yes” when it matters most. Also key is to manage expectations by being clear about what the priorities are. This way, when the time comes for me to say to a colleague, “Sorry, I have an important family priority—let’s pick this up tomorrow,” or to my daughters or wife, “This work project is really heating up. So I’ll need to be focused on this for part of the weekend, please bear with me,” it’s not a surprise. And for the most part, there will be understanding.
Whether it’s your children or your boss, I’ve found it is important to be clear about the reason you have to say no, and to offer an alternative solution.
It’s about setting boundaries
This is working better for me, both professionally and personally, than my old attempts at achieving the mythical work-life balance. At the end of the day, it’s about setting boundaries, which is the closest feeling I can find to the “state of equilibrium” I’d been looking for.
I find myself saying “no” more frequently to ensure I can pursue the things that are most important.– Ester Banque
As my kids get older, I find they need me differently—as more of an advisor, supporter, or cheerleader than caretaker. And they are empowered enough to tell me that certain events (like their games and performances) are non-negotiable. They will tell me, “Mom, do what you need to do, but you have to be there for me,” and I will do everything to be there for them.
This clarity has proven essential during the prioritization process. Professionally, meanwhile, I have empowered my team to work more independently and to stand in for each other when needed. I do the same.
How to prioritize proactively
As a result of all this, I find myself saying “no” more frequently to ensure I can pursue the things that are most important, and I encourage my team at work to do the same. And I am much more proactive when it comes to prioritizing rather than reacting in the moment. For example, we are cutting the number and the length of meetings we need to attend, and reducing the number of participants in the meetings.
My team and I, as well as my wife and I, have learned to divide and conquer. We are making sure the right level of oversight or involvement is in place without the need for unproductive “face time.” We are also identifying non-negotiables at work and at home, managing the all-important expectations.
My journey from “work-life” balance to “yes/no” balance has evolved over time. It has come along with the realization that while trying to please everyone, I have been pleasing no one, especially myself. It remains a process. Inevitably, my “yes/no” choices may occasionally disappoint. But in the long run, everything is so much easier when you’re able, without too much guilt or stress, to say “no” when saying “yes” to something else really matters.
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Achieving perfect equality between work and life is a myth. However, it is far more beneficial to focus on the quality of time you’re spending both personally and professionally — and not so much on the quantity.
When work is all-consuming, it can result in feelings of powerlessness and resentment. Getting back a healthier sense of work-life balance could help you to recharge. This can get you back in touch with the aspects of your job that you loved in the first place.
There’s a time and place for hard work. But always remember, that, at the end of the day, the best thing you can do, is to step back and give yourself a chance to reset.
Work-life balance is the key to avoiding burnout. When people sleep well, they have time to handle their lives, families, health and recreation. They are better rested, less anxious and more energetic.
When people have time to experience different things — outside of work and colleagues — they are more creative. Innovating and solving thorny problems – which fills our daily lives – requires creativity and lateral thinking. The stimuli that comes from reading, exercise, nature and having conversations with non-colleagues also enhances that. Our non-work experiences provide more sources of ideas.
This is a difficult time for everyone. It is difficult for employees thinking about getting back to in-person office work. But it’s also difficult for managers, businesses and for employers as they try to kind of figure out the logistics of this new normal.
Co-workers and managers need to understand that some people may still struggle with the uncertainty of the pandemic. The fears of the virus or simply seeing co-workers again after being isolated away from physical contact with each other for several months.
While this is not an exhaustive list, the 4 tips below can be a good place to start as everyone works to address their back to work anxiety.
If you haven’t been out much the past year, you should slowly and safely start doing so. If it’s really intimidating, do so in off-hours when maybe the traffic won’t be quite so high. At that period of the day, you have an opportunity to explore and just be in the world again.
See the positive and bright side
Going back to the office could actually be a good thing to many. We are designed for interactions and scheduled close work proximity can help in the delivery of certain assignments.
Basic self care is first care
Make sure to take care of yourself and start with the basics. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and connect with others, virtually and face-to-face. Gradually expand your safety bubble of people you feel safe to interact with without fear of the virus.
Seek professional support
If you need more help, talk to a professional. Act, talk to your manager about your concerns, engage with your human resource to understand any new policy in place and to know what type of support is going to be available. Determine to remove all possible barriers to a healthy career; seek other professional help, for example, to address mental health concerns.