Establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy work life balance is a challenge for many in the modern workplace. Getting this work life balance right when working across multiple time zones can be especially difficult. In this article we consider some ways to make sure you get the rest you need while doing the job you enjoy.
For some, a balanced life is one where they spend 15 hours or more, 7 days a week, involved in their work, only pausing to sleep, eat or do other essential tasks. For others, the concept of working more than 35 to 40 hours a week is completely alien and they relish the time away from the office, as much as their opposite personalities crave the office time. Both of these approaches to work life balance and everything in between, have their own view of a balanced life, but it is to those in between, people looking for a 40 to 50 hour working week within normal, sociable daytime hours that I will be addressing the bulk of this article.
Work Life Balance Challenges in International Projects
International projects place the whole project team and the project manager in particular, in a very time poor situation. They have to negotiate the ‘here and now’ challenges of the portion of the project being performed where they are located, while at the same time, dealing with the interfaces and other issues being experienced in other geographic locations, often several time zones distant. In these situations it is imperative to have a solid understanding in each location of who has what authority and, at what point they need to raise issues outside of their own location.
Any project manager who sets up their project so that everything has to be approved by them, regardless of their location, at any given time, is setting him or herself up for a very difficult and sleep deprived time. Further, these project managers may well inflict upon their team a frustrating and micromanaged project, potentially leading to a severely demotivated and disenfranchised staff and schedule delays, resulting from decisions being held up while the project manager struggles to keep up.
Conversely, a project manager who delegates all of their authority across the different geographic locations, while empowering the local personnel to do their jobs, is also abdicating some of their own responsibility to coordinate and oversee the whole project.
Solutions For A Work Life Balance
Thus, a sensible and pragmatic approach to the issue of work life balance needs to be reached, where the personnel in each location have explicit authority but with clear limits. One where staff can act as they need to, as long as they maintain an open communication dialogue with their colleagues in the other locations, deal with issues where they can, while keeping their Project Manager informed and refer back to them when they either reach the limit of their authority, or encounter an issue which requires resolution from their Project Manager.
Additionally, to achieve a reasonable work life balance, I would recommend that the Project Manager establish clearly agreed communication times, along with communication free times. Times when the Project Manager delegates his or her authority to a deputy, enabling them to step away from their email, turn off the phone to get some rest. A micro managing, stressed out, sleep deprived and over informed project manager will be of little use to the project in the long run and, may even make decisions in this state of confusion that are to the detriment of the overall exercise.
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