Work-life balance, the loose principle by which you divide your time and focus equally between work and personal activities, benefits individuals and businesses equally.

A healthy work-life balance can improve health, productivity, job retention and employee turnover, thus avoiding emotional exhaustion, say experienced CIOs. However, achieving a healthy balance between personal life and career seems more elusive than ever.

The economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has opened CIOs with greater opportunity and accountability in the boardroom, and put additional pressure on project delivery teams to accelerate multi-year digital transformation programs. The business prospects for IT teams later flourished, but that in and of itself is something of a double-edged sword.

CEOs, work-life balance, and a global pandemic

Like many tech executives, Jason James, CIO of NetHealth, a US-based EHR (electronic health records) software provider, says he threw himself into the business at the start of the pandemic, “later…because he was one of the The few things we’ve done can be controlled.” He admits that the work has become an outlet, but it is not sustainable.

Jason James Jason James

Jason James is Chief Information Officer at software provider NetHealth.

“I worked during lunch, work nights, and weekends and slept way less than I should,” he says. My family didn’t get the attention they deserved. I may have been successful as a CIO, but I wasn’t the best at my game as a father or husband.”

James devised a plan to make work more balanced, set limits for checking emails and messages, and set aside time for his lunch break outside. But it was still hard to stop working, as work often ate family time.

For Tariq Khan, CDIO (Chief Digital Information Officer) in Camden, London, work-life balance has become something else entirely. Khan started his first job last year and has had to juggle work and home education for children during the country’s national lockdown, almost meeting new colleagues and supporting government services with limited resources.

“[It] It could have been better,” he admits. “It has been a steep learning curve, plus there is a lot of reactive demand for local government services during the pandemic which has added to the workload.”

Work in isolation while leading teams

Other CIOs have expressed difficulties working in isolation, citing a lack of human contact, the transactional nature of video conferencing, yet the same pressure to lead, motivate and support teams as well as an ecosystem of partners.

For some, fighting the itch to do more has been difficult, even during downtime. Michelle Kearns was new to her role when she joined Boots Ireland as Head of IT last year, after spending 16 years at Caredoc Family Physician, most recently as CIO. She admits that it was difficult to balance making an impression in a new job, while still retaining some resemblance to normal life at home.

“Even when I was on annual leave this year, because I was new to the company, we had a project that was in progress and I would make calls at the end of the evening to see how it was going,” Kearns says. . “It was partly because I was so new, but I also wanted the project to succeed. I think it can be very difficult to disconnect.”

Mark Bramwell Mark Bramwell

Mark Bramwell is Chief Information Officer at Oxford Saeed Business School.

The break came even more surprisingly to Oxford Said Business School’s chief information officer, Mark Bramwell, when a heart attack last May forced him to weigh life’s priorities. He describes the event, from which he has now fully recovered, as a “wake-up call” to take better care of himself.

“I’ve learned that outcomes are not just driven by how hard and long you work, but how you prioritize and delegate and how smart you work,” says Bramwell, who also advocates working according to a set of personal values.

“I’ve definitely set new boundaries for my work day, and learned how to say ‘no’ more and better protect some of my ‘time’ in my diary for getting work done, thinking, planning and exercising.”

To achieve work-life balance, set priorities

Work-life balance can be achieved by delegating and prioritizing, as well as setting clear boundaries and taking breaks, CIOs say. But it’s also about, as Khan describes, getting a clear idea of ​​what you want to achieve.

tariq khan2 Tariq Khan

Tariq Khan is a CDIO in the Camden area of ​​London.

“Someone once described their inbox to me as ‘your to-do list that other people control,’ so it’s important to have a clear set of strategic priorities for the North Star that dictate how you plan your day,” Kahn says. One of the most valuable commodities we have to spend is our time and attention. So it is important to invest wisely.”

Gott Sehmbi, Digital Transformation Officer (CDTO) at the University of Essex, UK, is looking to do this by setting daily habits, installing protected time, but also taking up new hobbies outside of her day job.

Sehmbi says, “I’ve completed a few items on my hobby list, including getting back to playing piano and chess with a regular club. Having a scheduled activity helps as the group depends on your participation.”

jasper mac Jasper Macintosh

Jasper McIntosh is the Chief Information Officer at Gym Group.

For Jasper McIntosh, CIO at The Gym Group, the balance was about setting the time to finish in the evening, limiting time in the day to get away from his desk and making time for casual conversations with team members.

“When things were really crazy you would find yourself spending 12 hours a day talking, but it was always in the business. It just didn’t occupy the right side of your brain,” Macintosh says.

How to create a work-life balance for your team

These conversations could be part of something bigger, as Potts Kearns and Bramwell of Oxford Business School say that building trust, transparency and empowerment within teams can help all parties. Tom Catalini, chief information officer at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, goes further by suggesting that rewards for good work can achieve a healthy work-life balance for all employees.

“If someone on the team has to put in some extra effort to get a task done, I want them to balance that with a long lunch, an afternoon break or an extra day off — and soon. Making that clear policy is just as important as balancing,” Catalini says. modeling.

James of NextHealth, who recently became the company’s first employee to take paid parental leave, says this is due to the “softer” skills required by CIOs today, such as empathy and flexibility, which in turn can lead to better talent retention.

“People are more than just their jobs and the pandemic is forcing many companies to contend with that,” James says. “Many workers are pushing for roles that allow them to have greater flexibility in their careers and companies that embrace that retain and attract the greatest talent.”

For Catalini, work-life balance is ultimately about intelligence. “A more balanced life is not only beneficial – it is essential to reaching your full potential. Not only is being happier as important as being successful, being happier and more balanced actually leads to higher levels of success.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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