Work/Life Balance: Stop Trying to Achieve It

Work/life balance: a concept that’s been drilled into our brains and pushed on us for years, yet a majority of people struggle to achieve it.

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing technology environment, the idea that someone can balance their work life and personal life with a perfect 50/50 split is a tough goal. Maybe it’s time we ditch the traditional “work/life balance” concept and move towards something more realistic.

Do You Feel Guilty? 47% of Us Do

A recent Randstad US engagement study1 shows that 45% of employees feel obligated to check their emails after working hours and 47% feel guilty if they miss a day of work for being sick. Another 26% feel guilty using all of their granted vacation time.

What does this tell us? Thanks to advancements in technology, we’re living in a world where checking your work email before bed, on the weekend and on vacation has become normal, and those who don’t do it will feel the pressure. Companies and employees have normalized the idea of working after office hours. As a result, work/life balance has become impossible to achieve.

Optimus Takes a Different Approach

All You Need is Love

A 2014 Harvard Business Review article2 states that the more love co-workers feel at work, the more engaged they are. One of the most valuable lessons I learnt working at Optimus and living in India is to show compassion and care for everyone around you. Just because you work with them doesn’t mean you need to keep it “professional” all the time. Creating an emotional culture at work and taking the time to play, laugh and bond with co-workers are key to a happier, more productive workplace.

Companies today will tell us to leave our personal lives at home. This is obvious to a certain extent, but what if employers took a different approach and instead told us to merge our personal lives with our professional lives? Sounds crazy, right? Well, this is exactly what innovative tech company Optimus Information did, and it is the leading cause of their businesses success today.

Four months ago, I was given the incredible opportunity to travel to India and work at Optimus Information as their newest marketing intern. I worked with top-talent software engineers and happily immersed myself in the company’s unique office culture. This is what I observed:

Employees Treat Each Other Like Family

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Within the first few days of my internship, I noticed something very interesting about the office culture at Optimus: employees treated each other like family. They referred to it as “work/life integration”, a concept which involves combining both work life and personal life together into one setting.

I know what many of you are thinking: “what an unprofessional way to run a business”, “how on earth does this work?” and “how are employees productive?”. The truth is, it does in fact work and Optimus Information is living proof. As a highly driven business student who was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, I had never experienced or heard of this type of office culture before. I was always taught that personal life was separate from work life and to keep my personal life at home. I never knew that sharing personal experiences with your co-workers and treating them like family could increase your overall productivity. My perception of how a company should be run completely changed.

Work/Life Integration > Work/Life Balance

To clear things up, work/life integration isn’t about sharing your whole life story with everyone at the office. It’s about having the flexibility to work the way that you work best. Sometimes things come up and you need to leave work early. Sometimes you have an appointment and need to start work late. Some of us are morning people, while others are most productive at night. Work/life integration gives you the freedom to optimize your day so that you can perform at your absolute best at work without having to sacrifice much of your personal life.

With work/life integration, you can leave work early to catch the last train home or go see that band you’ve always wanted to watch live. If you’re not feeling well, you can go home early, and if your husband or wife isn’t feeling well, you can work from home to take care of them.

This sort of flexible workstyle came as a surprise to me, since I grew up with the mindset that unless you’re really sick (or even on your deathbed), you should always make it to work. At Optimus Information, this is not the case. Health comes first and nobody wants you in the office if you’re sick. As long as you make up the work that you missed, they have no issues with employees taking sick days.

It’s Important to Take Time to Play

Optimus employees demonstrate this by working really hard and taking frequent breaks to socialize over a game of table tennis or carrom (a South-Asian tabletop game). During cricket season when the weather’s not too hot, you’ll see about half of the office walk out to play an outdoor game of cricket! These small activities allow for bonding time between co-workers and are a great way for employees to recharge during office hours.

It’s not unusual for an Optimus employee to be at the office until 12:30-1am because they had a call with a client in Canada and were catering to that client’s time zone. Working crazy hours at a high stress job where you’re sitting at a computer all day is bound to take a toll on your body at some point. By taking these small breaks to “play” with your coworkers, you’re creating an emotional culture at work and this leads to happier, more productive employees.

 

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It’s a Win-Win for Everyone

At Optimus Information, employees know about each other’s personal lives and they don’t see a problem with it. If an employee wants to leave work early to attend their nephew’s birthday party, no questions are asked because everyone knows that this individual will make up his or her work at some other point during the week. Some might consider it unprofessional to talk about personal life at work, but Optimus employees see it as a way of building trust and strengthening relationships.

When you connect with someone on a personal level, you work better together; it’s as simple as that. As a result of working better together, productivity in teams increases, and increased productivity usually leads to more profits for the company. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Creating Better Companies

This internship gave me much more than the work experience I was hoping for. It gave me a clear vision of what kind of culture I’d like to create for my own company some day. I want people to understand that if more companies operated like this they would have higher retention rates, better quality deliverables and happier, more productive employees. Employees benefit, companies benefit, customers benefit and the economy benefits.

If I could say one thing to the Canadian workforce, it would be to treat your co-workers with the same respect and care as you would a family member. Nothing beats the feeling of coming into work with a sense of belonging and just knowing that you’re surrounded by people who love and genuinely care for you.

Want to know more about Optimus Information? Check out the video below to see what goes on behind the scenes at their delivery centre in Noida!

 

 

About the author:

Optimus_Headshots_Lucy-180x180 Work/Life Balance: Stop Trying to Achieve ItLucy Morrow is a second-year Bachelor of Business Administration and Marketing student, nearing the end of her 4-month co-op work term at Optimus Information in Noida, India. Lucy came to know about this opportunity while sitting in class one day when her teacher gave an informative presentation regarding The India Connect Scholarship Program offered at Langara College.

The India Connect Program is the first in a series of country-specific scholarship programs that gives students a chance to gain valuable work experience while developing intercultural skills at the same time. With her passion for business and curiosity about foreign culture, this was a no-brainer for Lucy; she knew she had to jump on the opportunity. The application process was long and competitive but ultimately worth it when she was selected as one of the two students to participate in the program.

“In an increasingly globalized world pivoting on Asia, young Canadians must seize the opportunity to live, work and play in other countries and cultures,” said Pankaj Agarwal, Managing Partner, Optimus Information Inc. “Optimus Information is one of Canada’s fastest growing IT firms and our India office is bustling with young people who are eager to introduce Canadians to their culture and the Indian way of doing business. I am excited to be able to partner with Langara College and The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada to offer this lifetime learning opportunity to Canadian students.”

 

See if Optimus is Right for You

For more information about working at Optimus, visit the link below:

https://www.optimusinfo.com/careers/

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1 https://www.randstadusa.com/about/news/engagement-study-work-life-balance/
2 https://hbr.org/2014/01/employees-who-feel-love-perform-better


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