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Beyond Work-Family Balance. Rhona Rapoport, Lotte Bailyn, Joyce K. Fletcher, and Bettye Pruitt (Jossey-Bass, 2002)

Breaking the Mold: Women, Men, and Time in the New Corporate World Lotte Bailyn (Free Press, 1993)

Disappearing Acts: Gender, Power, and Relational Practice at Work Joyce K. Fletcher (MIT Press, 1999)

Finding Time: How Corporations, Individuals, and Families Can Benefit from New Work Practices Leslie A. Perlow (Cornell University Press, 1997)

Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It Joan Wiliams (Oxford University Press, 2000)

Care and Equality: Inventing a New Family Politics Mona Harrington (Routledge, 1999)

A Modest Manifesto for Shattering the Glass Ceiling” Debra E. Meyerson and Joyce K. Fletcher. Harvard Business Review. January-February 2000

Unexpected Connections: Considering Employees' Personal Lives Can Revitalize Your Business. L. Bailyn, J.K. Fletcher, D. Kolb. MIT Sloan Management Review. Summer 1997. Reprint 3841.

Work and Family” Business Week's second survey finds juggling both is an endless struggle—and companies aren't helping much. Business Week. September 15, 1997

Boundary Control: The Social Ordering Of Work And Family Time In A High-Tech Corporation” Leslie A. Perlow. Administrative Science Quarterly, June 1998

When Lotte Bailyn wrote Breaking the Mold: Women, Men, and Time in the New Corporate World in 1993, many of us were working too many hours and seeing too little of the families we loved. In subsequent years, she’s continued researching the relationship between managerial practice and employees' lives. When we spoke in June, she talked of her work, her projects, and the wonderful ways that personal life can actually improve, not hinder, work life.

Conner: Would you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on?

Bailyn: My colleagues and I have been working with organizations of various kinds to look at the way they do their work. We look at things like their work practices, their work structure, the cultural assumptions surrounding who’s a good worker, and how they evaluate performance. With them we work to rethink those aspects in such a way that employees are able to live up to their highest potential in their work, and are also able to integrate their work with their personal lives. That is what we call the dual agenda.

We specifically do not use the term “balance” because it connotes that these two domains in people’s lives have to be equal; that it’s a balance scale—hence if one goes up, the other goes down. The underlying premise of our work is that this need not necessarily be so. We talk about “the integration of work and personal life” to show that work is also part of life. The term “work-life” implies that somehow the two are different, and of course they are not. Work is obviously an important part of life but shouldn’t be the only part.

We have been fairly successful in experimentally collaborating with people in work groups to make changes that serve the dual agenda of both allowing employees to integrate their work and personal lives better, and more effectively reach organizational goals. That approach also serves the purpose of gender equity because the current view of what’s required of work very much fits men’s lives and characteristics, and has made it difficult for women to reach the high positions that most organizations would like them to reach. This way of working also constrains men because they have to follow a model of the ideal worker who takes his work as the most important priority and as his identity.

Conner: Is your approach working?

Bailyn: Yes, we have had some successes. And loosening those constraints helps both men and women. Looking at work through the lens of work-personal life integration allows one to rethink the way that work is being done, which is not easy because these ways are so ingrained. The assumptions upon which they are based are taken so for granted that one doesn’t usually question them.

Conner: No wonder! This is no easy task.

Bailyn: True. It sounds easy when you say it, but it is very difficult to do.

Conner: I think “dual agenda” is a far better choice of words than “balance.”

Bailyn: We like it. And, as I said, instead of “work-life balance” or “work-family balance,” we’ve been using “work-personal life integration.” It may be an awkward phrase, but we’ve never quite found a way to say it that encompasses all these ideas, mainly that the two go together, and that they are not adversarial, and that changes can meet both goals. It doesn’t have to be either/or.

Conner: There are things, though, we must learn to do differently to be able to succeed... just to be able to relish that time in either area or both areas. What specific things have you learned that we all could benefit from?

Bailyn: There are things that have to be learned in both domains. In the domain of paid employment, we must learn to rethink the way that work is usually done, and the sort of definitions or assumptions upon which it’s based. For example, one often assumes the best worker is the one who’s always there, always available, and who spends long hours at work. But, as we know personally and from research, when there’s fatigue, there’s burnout and stress. There are costs to working too much, but there is a deep belief that that’s how to define the best workers.

Another assumption deals with the whole notion of time: the more time you put in, the better the work that comes out. We know that’s not true. The interesting example of the moment is in the medical field, where life-threatening mistakes come from people who are overworked or who work too long.

Learning has to be done in the work domain that deals with understanding the underlying assumptions, which often tend to be assumptions based on a different model of the world than we are in now.

Perhaps men could work all the time when women were at home supporting them and taking care of the personal side of life, but that’s not the world we are in now. Those underlying assumptions still define the routine, the work practices, and the way we evaluate performance. We have to learn about these types of assumptions and bring them to the surface so we can look at them, challenge them, and rethink how they affect the way we work. This would allow us to consider alternatives. We need to find ways of working that don’t take all this time and complete commitment, because one sees the negative consequences of that for the work itself.

In the personal sphere, learning has to be done around valuing the activities one does in communities and in families—activities that can provide self-esteem, satisfaction, and joy. But instead of learning from them, we’ve gotten to the situation where we feel these activities prevent career success. Which is too bad, because we have so much to learn from caring for other people and doing cooperative, collaborative work.

Conner: Ironically, isn’t that what we hear business wants people to do?

Bailyn: Yes, but their work cultures aren’t set up to take advantage of these kinds of activities or to learn from the personal and private world. Putting up this barrier of separation, that the two will never meet, may be one of the reasons why organizations are having such trouble getting to true collaboration and cooperation.

Conner: Likewise, I’ve often wondered how organizations that ask their employees to have great passion for their work and to be evangelists for the messages of the organization, can also ask those same employees not to bring their emotions and feelings to work, which has been the tacit request for years.

Bailyn: Exactly right. If you think of integration instead of this notion of separation of spheres, your emotions will be there. Businesses can’t expect you to bring all your passion to the work if they don’t, at the same time, legitimize and value your passion for your personal life and the activities that you do there, including the care of family, the care of communities, and the care for oneself.

Conner: I think that leads to the overarching question, which is what do we, as employees, need to learn?

Bailyn: We have to learn to do things differently. We have to let people experience a different way of working and a different way of interacting and giving. Naming those new ways and recognizing them is a huge learning experience. It’s scary to think of doing things differently, allowing emotions to surface, and bringing your personal world into the public world. That's why we begin with trial attempts.

Conner: It sounds like they then learn from experience.

Bailyn: Exactly.

Conner: And it sounds like it helps them also make changes and modifications.

Bailyn: Yes.  If you say, “Let’s just try it for six weeks,” it somehow allows that experience to occur. If you were to say, “We’re going to change forever, from tomorrow on,” it probably wouldn’t work.

Conner: Here’s to small steps. Thank you.

Lotte Bailyn is T Wilson (Class of 1953) Professor of Management and Behavioral Policy Science (BPS) at MIT Sloan where she studies the relationship between managerial practice and employees' lives. She is author of Breaking the Mold: Women, Men, and Time in the New Corporate World and with her research team the upcoming Beyond Work-Family Balance. Learn more about her on the MIT Sloan Website .

Marcia Conner is Editor in Chief of LiNE Zine and CEO of Learnativity.com. She’s in the process of finishing a book on how learning influences life. Write her at marcia@linezine.com.

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