There is no such thing as “work is work and home is home.”
We all try to do it. Separate work and home. Compartmentalize each role we play ̶ leader, planner, laborer, parent, sibling, significant other, etc. We say that “work is work and home is home,” but is it really? When you hire an individual, you hire the whole person. The person who wakes up at 2 a.m. to feed a crying child; or the individual who works two jobs to make ends meet. What about the one who is enjoying every free moment they have and spending precious time with family and friends? Each of these individuals, whether they intend to or not, bring a bit of their personal lives with them into the workplace and also bring a bit of workplace into their personal lives.
As a leader, what can you do when the work-life balance is off? When work is having a negative effect at home; or home is having a negative effect at work?
Listen – It is essential to listen to each member of your staff. If your coworker is having difficulties completing projects or seems to be distracted, ask them, with genuine concern, as to what barriers may be in place that are preventing them from achieving success.
Get curious, not furious – The last thing an individual under stress needs is more stress. Any added amount of pressure could make the associate’s performance worse, not better. Instead, when they explain to you why they are not able to complete the project in a timely manner, do your best to not get upset with the individual. They are being open with you, and if you are quick to disregard their concerns or become furious with them, they will be less likely to trust you or come to you if there is an issue in the future. Instead, ask open-ended questions as to why they feel this is a barrier, and how you may be able to help.
Find the underlying issue(s) – Sometimes, the source of conflict may not be so obvious. Your coworker may appear to be frustrated by the project, when in reality they are stressing over unpaid bills, or a sick child at home. Stress can manifest itself in many different ways, and if your coworker has to be the level-headed, on-top-of-everything person at home, then they may be drained by the time they walk into work. Is the issue at hand really the project with a tight deadline? Or, is this person simply burnt out and in need of some downtime (even a single vacation day could do wonders for an energy boost)? Could it be unrealistic demands from their boss on the timeline to complete the project, or do they simply not know where to start? By pinpointing the underlying issue that is causing the stress, you will be better able to develop an action plan that will address the actual problem instead of the manifested issue. You may even want to disclose a similar experience you had and the steps you took to alleviate the stress.
Follow-up – Once you have helped your coworker identify the actual source of conflict (or issue), be sure to check in with them after a few days to see how they are doing. Again, in order to do this correctly, you must be genuinely concerned about the health, happiness, and productivity of this individual. Otherwise, you will come off sounding insincere which may cause distrust. Candidly disclose what you have observed since you last discussed the issue with your associate (are they more relaxed, do they seem more tense, are there other issues that may have surfaced). By giving this individual honest and positive feedback, they can better gauge how they have dealt with the problem and if they may still need assistance.
Be open to questions – A conversation requires at least two people and if you are asking questions, you must be willing to answer some, too. By having open and honest discussions, you are building trust and confidence with your coworker, stepping stones for a relationship that may go beyond the daily 9 to 5.
Always remember that people are the heart and soul of a company. Without them, nothing would get accomplished. It is also important to know that people cannot just “switch on or off” when they enter the office. To have productive, happy, and healthy workers you need to be willing to accept the whole person, for whatever stressors they have outside the organization will ultimately have an effect inside the organization.