By Sue Aiken
Portions of this article originally appeared in NCDA's web magazine, Career Convergence. Copyright National Career Development Association, (February, 2008). Reprinted with permission. Readers are invited to enjoy Career Convergence by visiting the NCDA website to read articles, search the archives, sign up for a free subscription, and even submit an article! NCDA link to article.
"Be Happy While You're Living…..For You're A Long Time Dead!"
- - Scottish Proverb
Two growing client concerns are a quest for life work balance and for a sense of community.
Life work balance is the desired relationship between work and other life activities. It could be impacted by quality of life values, the degree of separation between one's work and other parts of life, how each supports the other and what each contributes to the holistic quality of life.
Community is a supportive association or group to which one belongs. It can be a literal place or a virtual one and take many forms.
Career practitioners can use a variety of methods, including the following, to help the client focus on life-work balance and community:
Interview questions to help clients focus might include asking them to consider whether they live to work or work to live. What do they need and want from work? How would they want to answer these questions versus how they experience their reality? How does their living environment support or detract from their work?
In a visualization or written exercise, ask how much time they spend each day commuting? How do they commute? Are they alone in their car, in a carpool, reading on public transportation, bicycling or walking to work? Are they able to work part time from a home office each week? Do they feel isolated while working at home? Is there a social network in their home community? Are others available to pick up a child from school or nurse a sick pet or check on grandma once a day? Are they part of a collaborative community with support systems?
Consider alternative solutions and open their eyes to possibilities that could alter the balance between work life and personal life with the assistance of community. Brainstorm the following options with clients:
- Check out co-housing communities. Visit several and ask questions such as: How would the community support them in their life? Would it add ease or stress to one's life? Would it add to the demands of life or energize it?
- Learn about live/work spaces such as in Oakland, California. What are the rules? What is the noise level of closer living? How would this serve your life?
- Visit your city's planning department to see what already exists or will be developed such as in downtown Los Angeles. Re-vitalization and repurposing of formerly run down areas and buildings have led to apartments and condos located near jobs, stores and public transportation.
- Consider companies that offer flex time or home based technology encouraging working anywhere, anytime. Research home based businesses, consulting, coaching, or part time employment.
Exercises to assist your clients should be varied to appeal to diversity of needs.
1. Visualization of their ideal live/work environment and desired life work relationship
2. Values clarification involving identifying needs and wants around why they work and what they need and want from it. Special emphasis should be placed on their need for balance and for community, if any.
3. Recall all communities they have experienced in their life and review the pros and cons as they remember them. Could be school, clubs, church, teams, neighborhoods, associations, circle of friends, support groups and virtual groups.
4. What is one thing they can do today to help make their vision a reality? Write it down along with a completion time.
I invite you to test out some of the questions and exercises with your clients. As career counselors, we listen to tough life issues expressed across all working generations. There may never be a better time to seek out the 21st century version of "community" to meet the growing and diverse needs of a workforce hungry for some degree of balance in their life.
Official Guide to the City of Oakland Live/Work Building Code: Live/Work in Plain English. Retrieved 1/22/08 : www.live-work.com/plainenglish-ws
Co-housing information: http://www.cohousing.org/