As a workplace wellness strategist, clients expect me to be on the lookout for their employees’ well-being, which I do well. However, I often find myself conflicted on one topic – Work-Life Balance. Although balance is one of the markers of workplace psychological health and safety, I always wonder why it’s the most discussed and sought-after out of the fourteen factors. Aside from the fact that it seems overused with its purpose over-flogged, people need to start putting it in the right perspective and context. For example, if I have a job that I love and enjoy so much, such that positively drives me to bring the best out of me, a job that I’m not only interested in but also well equipped to do. If my work is both psychologically and physically safe, if I’ve been able to align my personal goals with those of the organization, and if I sometimes enjoy the flexibility of working from home with healthy boundaries in place, among other things, then I may not feel I’ve worked for a day in my life.

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to be in a meeting where a CEO of a Fortune 500 company was asked about how she’s been able to balance life, family, and work. Her response to the question was spot on, just like every other one she gave. Paraphrasing her, “Work and life are not meant to be on a balance scale which you must constantly monitor to ensure one isn’t skewed against the other. I adopt a form of synergistic approach where, if necessary, work can come home with me, and home can be brought to work so that nothing suffers.” So, someone may say, “It’s easy for her to have it that way because she’s a CEO. After all, she calls the shots where most employees may not dare to do likewise”. Even though that style works beautifully for her and many others, there are other ways to achieve work-life balance with a synergistic approach. For today’s topic, we will use a Netflix series titled Emily in Paris as a case study.

Emily, an American luxury brand marketing guru, and a social media influence expert resumed work in Paris after being seconded from their headquarters in Chicago. She experienced her first rude work culture shock when she got to the office two hours ahead of Savoir’s resumption time. She was probably used to having early day starts, which could be a great time for creativity and productivity. Another difference in the work culture is not discussing ideas and anything work-related over lunch or at business parties or events. Americans organize parties to network and discuss work, whereas the French try hard to separate them. Another shock came when voicing her ideas on the spot was perceived as an act of rudeness or competition which stirred up jealousy and strife among colleagues instead of being taken as a teamwork effort. Anyone who constantly and deliberately tries to separate work from life or life from work has not discovered self and uncovered their sweet spots.

Working a job that continually inspires, accentuates one’s strengths, and recognizes one’s work is easier than you think. Having a job that keeps you highly engaged without being at the detriment of your health or family is also very much achievable. Achieving all these starts with self-awareness. It’s funny how people would go through senior high school, college, and work for years, yet they do not truly know themselves. It’s important to identify your core character and skill strengths. This information will reveal what comes to you easily and why. You will also be aware of your weaknesses, which can be improved upon or complemented. This exercise also makes you see colleagues and other people as imperfect, just like you, which spurs you to find better ways to work together to achieve the organization’s goals. Here are a few other lessons from the Emily in Paris series.

Never see any difficult colleague, boss, or client as an enemy of your progress. It’s nothing personal, as Slyvia would say. No one can dim your light if you are excellent at what you do. Also, be sure to have and know what you bring to the table that sets you apart. Your unique value will create an undeniable void at the table whenever you are not there or invited.

Another point is to respect people’s culture without compromising your great work ethic. Moreover, who says you can’t be the one to change the toxic culture in your workplace? It may be faster to drive culture through leadership; however, anyone can bring about or inspire the desired change.

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Weave life and work together so that no one can fault your quality of work or doubt your need for some time off. Yes, you can have the best of both worlds. Disequilibrium usually does not emerge from work itself but from how enjoyable your job is. It is important to hone your skills, especially those required to bring on your A-game. To be a high performer, talents and gifts are not just enough. Training, certifications, and regular practice will amplify your abilities in a way people would seek in exchange for top dollar. Also, don’t struggle to impress anyone. If you are genuine and passionate and have put in the work, your work will precede you.

Learn, unlearn, and relearn saying no. Boundaries are necessary for a reason, and by that, I don’t mean just saying no to any task or request that doesn’t suit you. More importantly, find ways to decline tasks or requests that are not self-sabotaging. Pick up opportunities to learn more and grow. Identifying your weaknesses, even if it’s a language, and doing something about it is critical. You never know where this may lead you.

Ultimately, be happy with what you do to the point that you are proud of doing it. This doesn’t only boost your confidence but also increases your engagement level.

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Identifying your sweet spots goes beyond knowing your talents and gifts. It transcends finding your passion and interests. It requires some technicalities that juxtapose what you are great at and what you truly want to do at that point in your career or at that growth stage of your organization. You can learn this and more by enrolling for the upcoming Ride To Leadership Programme organized by Rise and Lead Women. For more information, please send an email to [email protected].

Opaleye, wellbeing specialist and corporate wellness strategist, writes from Lagos