Today was the first day in the Virtual Women Championship organized by 360 Experiential Solutions under the Auspices of the National Council for Women & in partnership with ExxonMobil. And the day ended with a panel discussion among 3 astonished women & a great moderator who created a smooth discussion that helped in sharing different experiences under the work-life balance topic to learn from in this amazing network. The panel discussion was moderated by Malak Wahba & the discussion went among Lara Atallah, Maggie Balba, and Sally Hussein.
Malak Wahba was the moderator, and she currently works as the Public & Government Affairs Advisor at ExxonMobil Egypt. The 3 speakers were Maggie Balba is an Integral coach certified from ICI in Germany & the co-founder of Tarreq, Lara Atallah is an executive & leadership coach certified from ICF, and Sally Hussein ExxonMobil Egypt HR Manager & in-country HR operations manager Africa & Middle East.
Work-Life Balance between the truth & the illusions:
And the first question addressed from Malak to Maggie was around defining the work-life balance. And Maggie was clear that she believes that this balance never exists & that work-life balance is a myth. And I personally agree with this concept very much, given that work is part of life. So, Maggie insisted on prioritizing as a key & to draw your circle of life clearly in front of you. As the circle of life emphasizes the fact that our life consists of different points that are equally important however we can assign different capacities to each section. Unlike the hierarchy of the triangle with its base & top. And the circle of life includes many thing like health, career progression, family, and so on.
As well to reach the balanced state which is broader than the work-life balance you need to have a bird-eye view. As unbalance usually comes from pain which deep down resonates with the unconsciously favoring some thing over other things that are included in your circle of life. In other words, unbalance is caused by the gap between the time you wish to allocate to a certain activity & the time you actually allocates for this activity.
We need to differentiate between comfort & well-being. As you might be comfortable Netflexing for 6 hours straight, however this will do nothing to your well-being. If you spend all of your time comforting yourself instead of focusing on your well-being you will feel that something is not okay & that there is unbalance. And only when you are aware of this difference, you will be able to prioritize the things you like & find the real balance in life.
How to create a balanced life?
Following this question Malak asked Lara to tell us more about how we can create this balanced state. So, Lara elaborated that balance comes from integrating & prioritizing our needs & wants. First things first, you need to know your values or the emotional states that are important for you to live. Secondly, you need to make yourself happy & fulfilled when you look back on your life. Only when you define your values, you will be able to know what makes you happy or secured or successful as this differs from one person to the other. For example, maybe someone defines success as climbing the coporate ladder & another one defines success as having $1,000,000 in your bank account.
And to clarify this even further, to have balance you won‘t be able to fulfill everything in your circle of life daily. However, make room for everything on weekly or bi-monthly basis to fill your jar accordingly.
How to find time?
Then Malak asked a question that I am sure came to our minds by now, how to find the time for this to create the needed balance. So, Maggie & Lara answered this question collectively. That to have time doesn’t require an extended vacation, however quality always comes over quantity. So, if you took 5-10 minutes daily to check-in with yourself & do some breathing techniques this is quality over quantity. If you have no time, you might take your coffee while walking around in the fresh air to recharge during the morning or in the middle of the day.
Consistency is always a key! And to reach this consistency you need to integrate your priorities. So, for example prepare your healthy snacks to take it with you to work. And lets be clear that every priority is feeding the other priorities accordingly. So, for example work gives you money & money helps you fulfill your kids’ needs.
Work well on your energy levels & recharge regularly to be productive. And this will enhance your performance state eventually. Recharging needs sleeping well, taking regular breaks every 90 minutes of work, eating well, working on your mental wellness, and being grateful. As simply more energy leads to more capacity to do the things you have included in your circle of life.
How organizations can help women to achieve balance?
Malak asked Sally to tell us more on how employers can help employees to find the balance. Sally started with stating that balance is difficult, however with integration it is doable. So, as mentioned before by Lara & Maggie you need to know what makes you happy or fulfilled & integrate this to your life. Employers should focus on the employee value preposition from an employer perspective. So, the employer should meet the expectations of the employee financially, education & career growth, rewards & recognition, wellness, and providing mentorship or networks to support the values accordingly.
So, employers need to test the flexible hours, working from home, encouraging maternity & paternity leaves, in addition to having nutrition & exercise programs as well.
Women don’t prioritize themselves:
Lara answered this that women need to change their mindset as you can’t pour from an empty jar. So, know your needs & wants through slowing down. Maggie added that if you do have a lot of things on your plate, you need to slow down & you can easily get rid of at least 30% of the things on your plate. You will be able to get rid of 30% of the things on your plate through letting go or delegating things to free some space on your plate.
On emotions you need to understand your emotions & dig deeper into it. And to change your emotions that came up as a result of a specific situation that happened, you need to change your physique to create an illusion to your mind & change your emotions as well. If you are sitting in front of your laptop, stand up & walk for a short time. If you are frowning, just smile. And change your focus, because when you focus on the negative things it expands internally. Then, try to change the meaning of this situation eventually.
How to prioritize yourself without the guilt feeling?
Women always tend to feel guilt when they prioritize their “me-time”. So, Lara & Maggie shared their combined tips below:
We all belong to the women system as part of the collective consciousness that is culturally imposed such as having everyone before us & this is the reason of feeling guilty if you did something else.
Set mental boundaries with people around you.
Prioritizing your self is coming from self-love not selfishness.
You can’t help others without being fit.
When to change your job?
Before the end of the session, one of the participants asked on when to know if it is the right time to change your job or corporate. So, Sally‘s tips are:
Go back to your values & priorities.
If you current job is not matching with your values or priorities, this will lead to a burn-out eventually.
Overcome unhappiness for extended periods of time.