The supermarket is a great place to tap into the pulse of people’s lives. I don’t eavesdrop, but discussions often occur in such a way that I’m sure the people doing the talking must think they’re in a bubble and can’t be overheard. I could write a book on the things I’ve heard while shopping for bread and grapes.
Standing at the deli counter over the weekend, I heard two women — who had not seen each other in a while — sharing their respective “tsoris” (Yiddish for suffering or hurt). One was doing most of the talking about her elderly father who needed to move into an assisted living facility while her pre-teen child was going through different angst. I could relate (and wanted to say so) since I went through the independent living/assisted living/nursing home/hospice nightmare with my own father several years ago while my child was dealing with bullying in school. I could see in her face — and I only glanced quickly — that she was barely functional.
There was no way to know whether this woman was also working outside of the home but if so, her candle was not burning at both ends but was about to be extinguished. Issues of this magnitude have a significant impact on the job. Anyone who has a life knows all too well how family issues impact all else. And because life isn’t linear nor do these life situations present themselves in succinct packages where you deal with one thing, complete it, and move onto the next, chaos becomes a way of existence.
Work/life is a “juggle and a struggle” but just as importantly, it’s not an either/or scenario. While every employee at every life stage is dealing with different issues, one thing is for sure … it’s a rare individual who is facing just one work/life challenge. Rather, issues often arise together or back-to-back, creating a push-pull ripe with conflict and forcing a rapid shift in priorities, all while taking a daily toll on the individual in every aspect of life.
A single person vs. a working parent. Someone with medical issues vs. someone facing retirement. An employee with financial pressures vs. one with elder care needs. Every need and situation is different and “best” companies are constantly searching for ways to respond. Yet it’s essential that organizations also recognize that it’s not an either/or scenario … that many employees are dealing with more than one issue and many times, more than one at a time.
Easing the pain requires a combination of solutions and an understanding that when one thing abates, another may quickly take its place. Or that some issues are never discussed and fly under the radar. Sometimes an employee can barely catch his/her breath before it hits the fan again and while the fan keeps on spinning, so does the employee.
There’s really no difference between the ebb and flow of business and the ebb and flow of life. With one exception. I’ve yet to hear anyone in the supermarket talking about profit margins or sales quotas, but do hear plenty about marriages, children, parents, divorces, foreclosures, and the need for vacations. It’s not that people aren’t thinking about work deadlines and projects, but they’re certainly not discussing them at the deli counter.