Are you achieving a work-life balance?

Presumably, we were all either too busy or too lazy to put aside a moment andspare a thought for the big questions of life, work and chilling out.

Busy researchers at the National Work-Life Forum, backed PricewaterhouseCoopers among others, however, have been beavering away on our behalf for over two years on a report into our long hours culture.

Slacking or idling found a mild but not overly strained counter-cultural voice through the 1990s, and its not too vigorous critique of our work-obsessed culture would seem to have stormed at a snail pace to the bastion of managementscience.

For those who can stomach it, the 103-page report,’ Breakpoint/breakthrough: work-life strategiesfor the 21st century’, provides a meeting ground for sharey Blairey stakeholderpolitics and a post-1960s language of ‘holistic’ partnerships, virtuous circlesand breaking through (to the otherside).

Ed Smith, a partner at PwC who chairs the group’s steering and strategy group,says: ‘Any business whose business plan currently fails to incorporate work-lifestrategies for action will need to re-think their future very carefully if theyare to compete successfully in tomorrow’s rapidly changing world.’

Well-meaning chairperson Joanna Foster says the forum she set up in 1997 wants to demonstrate that work-life balance matters ‘socially and economically to men,women and their families; to communities; to work organisations and togovernment.’

‘We are all stakeholders’, she argues. ‘To change attitudes and behaviour – todevelop ways of working that will really transform for the better organisationalculture and our lives – demands a wider, deeper, more holistic and integratedapproach.’

Smith believes that technology advances and a developing new economy are drivingthe need for a change in the way we all organise our attitudes to work.’In a nation characterised by a long hours culture this type of shift will onlybe driven by leaders who see the changing drivers of value in their business,’he muses.

Sounding more like a latter day Dr Timothy Leary than an accountant advising onmanagement techniques, he argues that beliefs form the foundations of thebusiness culture and dictate what is ‘sacred, what is sanctioned and what istaboo.

‘By demonstrating their own personal commitment to and achievement of a balancedlifestyle,’ he says, ‘these leaders are by their very behaviour sanctioningconsistent behaviour among others in the organisation. Only then will employeesfeel empowered to attain a true balance between work and life.’

Dress down day? Now, where did I put that kaftan?

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