6 Steps to Maintaining a Good Work-Life Balance in the MENA Region

6 Steps to Maintaining a Good Work-Life Balance in the MENA Region

  • Work-life balance has evolved from being a luxury in the past century to being a necessity these days.
  • While maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a priority for MENA professionals, they seem to be struggling to achieve this aim.
  • While a large part of the responsibility lies with employers, employees should also take proactive steps to maintain a good work-life balance.
  • These include planning one’s week, embracing technology, learning to say NO, being aware of company policies and maintaining good relationships at work, and staying healthy and fit.

Worldwide, work-life balance has evolved from being a luxury in the past century to being a necessity these days, and the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region is no exception to this trend. As per the 2013 Employee Motivation survey conducted by Bayt.com and YouGov, work-life balance emerged as one of the key factors affecting employee motivation in the region, as 98% of the respondents claimed that achieving a good work-life balance was important for them to remain motivated at work.

While maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a priority, professionals in the region seem to be struggling to achieve this aim. This is reflected in the Work: life Balance Index conducted by Regus, where the Middle East scored 117, falling three points behind the global average of 120. The Bayt survey, on the other hand, showed that as nearly one-fourth of the employees in the region always work overtime or take work home, while another two-thirds do so occasionally.

A large part of the responsibility towards ensuring work-life balance rests with employers. Majority of the employees (especially the tech savvy younger workforce) felt that employers should offer more flexibility and allow them to work in ways that suit them, as opposed to age-old ways which respect ‘presenteeism’ at work. This includes flexible working hours, job-sharing arrangements, occasional distance working arrangements, sabbatical leave allowances, child-care units, etc. That said, the Bayt survey pointed that 58% employees felt that they receive some level of support from their employers to achieve a good work-life balance. Therefore, it seems that organizations in the region are aware of employee needs, and are developing and implementing HR policies to act on the above suggestions.

However, employees have an equally vital role to ensure that they are able to maintain the right equilibrium between their personal and professional lives. Work-life balance is for employees, and therefore we recommend that they address this issue proactively by taking the below steps to reduce stress levels, maintain productivity, & avoid burn-outs at work; all while leading an enriching personal life.

  1. Plan your working AND NON-WORKING week, and make sure you budget-in some “me time”: Yes, like with most things in life, the starting point is planning your week/day in advance and focusing on the important things, both at work and at home. Make sure that you are focused and productive during work hours, so that you do not have to work overtime or take work home with you. This is especially applicable for women, who have more domestic responsibilities to take care of once they get back home, as opposed to their male colleagues.

Individuals should look beyond their responsibilities as a professional, parent, child, etc. and budget-in some “me time”, i.e., time for activities which you enjoy doing and which help you unwind.  This could include listening to music, painting, hanging out with friends, a walk on the beach, etc. You can choose your activity and its periodicity (daily/weekend/other), but make sure to make it a part of your routine so that you get to recharge your batteries and do not feel drained.

  1. Be aware of your company policies: More often than not, companies are more flexible than employees think, and are willing to be flexible, especially to strong performers. This could include options like work-from-home, rotational shifts, extended maternity leaves (for women) or even a sabbatical from work. So, make sure that you understand your company policies well and are availing the flexibility that you are entitled to.
  1. Learn to say NO at work and at home: A key element to achieving work-life balance is to prioritize your tasks and learn when to say NO. This could be at work (filling-in too often for a colleague or being part of a new initiative just for the sake of it) or at home (neighbour-related tasks). Saying no is not easy, but it allows you to stay focused on things that are most important to you and which you like doing more. Remember you are not a superman or superwoman so you can’t do everything!
  1. Embrace telecommuting for work use of technology at homeTechnology is perhaps the single most potent tool for improving efficiency and work-life balance. So, check with your employer about the option to telecommute/work-from-home. Also, embrace technology more often for domestic tasks like paying bills, etc. Trivial as these may seem, such small steps ultimately save you precious time and energy.
  1. Maintain transparent communication with your boss and organization: It is important to have a good working relationship with your boss so that you can share your work-life related concerns. Make sure that the relationship is cordial yet professional, and that you are meeting or exceeding your organization’s expectations, in order to expect flexibility from them.
  1. Focus on staying healthy and fitNothing beats a healthy body and mind, so make sure that you are taking the right diet and are getting adequate sleep to rejuvenate yourself. Try to include some exercise in your routine as well.

Ultimately, each one of us needs to decide what works best for us, while keeping our families and organizations in mind (no one lives in a vacuum!). Therefore, it is important to create your own methodology, and keep changing it with time as the situations in your personal and professional lives evolve.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Plugging in is nothing if you don’t turn the switch ON

Plugging in is nothing

  • Professional networking and connections are critical elements of your business success
  • Always look for the win-win in business referrals.  Even if you aren’t initially one of the “wins”, people remember those who helped them.
  • Honouring your network by switching ON-  following up diligently when introduced- will lead to more open communication and beneficial referral networks

Business referrals are your reputation

“I know someone there” may be music to your ears if you’re looking to get your foot in the door of a new company; or checking out a prospective new employer.  In today’s work world, it really is often about who you know to get that first break in a sea of similarly qualified talent.  It’s a fact of life people make time for trusted referrals before a cold call, email, or CV.

“But what about my merits? My education, work history and professionalism?” you may ask.  These are all critical to be sure, and combined with a strong professional network, this is an encouraging word for you to be both be a connector and someone who readily turns on their follow up switch when they’re referred professionally.

For years now, I have been instructing graduate and undergraduate business and, during this time, I have been fortunate to have exceptional cohorts and find the experiences quite rewarding.  There are a few litmus tests I like to use when assessing my willingness to connect any student or professional contact to a someone I know.  They’re pretty simple and relatively few.  Actually there are only two:

1. Will this person represent me well?  After all, this is my reputation I am entrusting to a person.  Professional contacts are valuable and, before I just go on and give you the keys to open the door, I need to be relatively secure in the fact you will conduct yourself well and be a positive reflection of me to the person I introduce you to.  It’s about trust.

One recent example of this causing some stress was when I had a student look through my Linkedin contacts and send me a list of 50 people they wanted me to introduce them to.  First, let’s get some focus here.  If you’re asking for help, the “throw it against any wall and see what sticks” approach is far from recommended. Certainly, I wasn’t about to refer anyone to 50 contacts straight away.

What made this especially delicate is the fact this person was a B- student at best.  They were clearly not focused on the course, on participating, on their assignments, on helping others in class, and there was simply no way I was going to refer them to anyone, anytime soon.  I let them know “you’re asking me to trust you with my reputation and introduce you to these professionals?  At this time, I don’t have the confidence you would properly take care of my reputation, sorry”.    It was an honest and certainly eye opening conversation.

2. Will this person actively follow up appropriately with intelligent communication with the person to whom theyre referred.  See above of course as to why this is important; however, it’s a deeper issue. With all due respect to younger professionals and graduate school students who’ve worked a bit, if you are connected to a senior executive, someone with a far more senior role, and they make time to offer to meet you- drop everything within reason to accommodate their availability.

Admittedly, this is harder to read.  Will someone, when given the change to meet an executive, make every effort to make it happen? This would seem like a no- brainer right?

You are offered a chance to meet a senior executive in their office when they return from overseas or regional business travel.  You’d jump to make it happen right? Well this example went very differently and I must thank my brother, President of an advertising agency, for his patience.

Not too long ago, an excellent student of a respected colleague was recommended to me for assistance in their career planning.  The student came to speak with me while I was guest lecturing at my Alma Mater. They presented themselves well, seemed focused, and asked me for an introduction to 3 specific people I was connected to via Linkedin.  “Wow” I thought, “they have it together!” A quick check with my colleague validated their hard working nature and industriousness. As mentioned in point 1 above, my colleague trusted this person and their reputation to me.

As it were, one of the contacts with whom they wished to meet was my brother, who is also an alum.  Now I reserve the holy grail of referrals, my brother, for one or two people annually.  Not only does this referral carry the usual weight of professional contact, but I really don’t want to hear how I wasted his time over Holiday dinner when I am looking to enjoy our family time.

To his credit, my brother took time from his extremely busy schedule to make a few attempts to connect before asking me if he could “cut them loose”,  I concurred it was time to do so because his offer to meet this senior student 3 times was met with “that’s not a convenient time for me” FROM the student.  I almost thought he was joking.  Actually, after the second call from him, I did think he was gaming me.  I was shocked.

My colleague and I were both embarrassed.  This student carelessly jeopardized the reputation of their professor who in tern recommended the student to me and jeopardized my reputation.  In an attempt to curtain such behavior in the future, I made a call to the student to let them know they would not be meeting my brother and to try and not make a habit of this again.

The bottom lines, look for the win-wins and how you can help people. And when someone offers you help, follow up like your reputation depends on it. Because it does.

Connect; switch on; and succeed.

The article is written by Jonscott Turco for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review