Work-life balance: Care, Connection, Compassion for a Change

Addressing the complex challenges that underpin the 2030 Agenda is accompanied by a great deal of stress. Breaking silos and engaging people from many cultures and disciplines means stepping out of our comfort zones. Catalysing partnerships and action requires a lot of energy and the courage to expose one’s self. The question thus arises: how can we manage our own stress levels so that we not only do our work, but also are present for our family and friends and navigate life with joy and compassion?

So… how can we optimize our personal capacity to be agents of positive change, at home, in our community and in the workplace?

Here are a few tips that work for me:

  • Focus on one thing at a time: More and more evidence demonstrate that multi-tasking is a myth! As humans, our brains perform better when engaging fully in one thing. So, let’s fully engage, and fully disengage, to be fully present to the task or the person at hand.
  • Meet people, fully and right where they really are: The way people show up is the way they show up. We can’t force them into holding our point of view. We can’t make them move faster than they are prepared to go. So, at home as much as in our workplace, let’s cultivate our curiosity for people and their stories and quiet our judgements. Let’s see people, hear them and engage with them from where they are, not from where we feel they should be. We will save our precious energy to move on with the potential that exists, however great or small.
  • Connect with people with warmth: Always connect first, with smile and eye contact when possible, empathy and real curiosity for what each person brings. It facilitates trust, communication and absorption of ideas. Smile on the phone, the person you are talking to will feel it and open more easily. Pause whatever else you were doing, and engage fully, from your heart. There is always something to learn, another perspective to discover, another story to unveil.
  • Take your job seriously, without taking yourself too seriously! Hold your lightness through even the most serious circumstances. Whatever prize I get, however serious or high level the group is that I engage with, I wear fun socks! Most people don’t see them, but they are my important reminder to have fun and not take myself too seriously.

There are many other tips and practice that can help us balance our busy lives. Connecting with people, fully and warmly, with passion and humility, is the one that keeps me going! At times when I cannot manage, I depend on this.

This blog was first published in July 2019 as part of a special issue on “Work-life balance” of The Leader, the official newsletter of the African Nutrition Leadership Programme.