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Work-life balance is a myth, says expert

It's irrefutably ironic, according to Dan Pontefract.

"If your employer purports to support work-life balance then why have levels of burnout, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and stress all gone up between 15% and 44% from 2009 to now?" asked the Victoria-based leadership strategist, consultant, author and motivational speaker.

Pontefract outlines the dilemma -- and solution -- in his fifth book, Work-Life Bloom: How to Nurture a Team that Flourishes, which will be released Oct. 24 by Figure 1 Publishing.

In the same book he drops a couple of other bombshells on the employment and leadership lexicon.

"Employee engagement is also a myth and so is that stuff about being your authentic-best self," said Pontefract.

"We've got the narrative wrong. Work-life balance isn't happening."

</who>Leadership strategist, consultant, author and motivational speaker Dan Pontefract of Victoria speaks at the Association for Talent Development conference in San Diego.

So, how do we get it right?

"Employees in Canada and all over the world bring work home with them and bring life to work with them," said Pontefract.

"It's the work-life predicament. The pandemic changed everything and employers have a fiduciary responsibility -- a duty of care -- to have open conversations with workers to make sure they are healthy and can flourish as team members."

Of course, this is easier said than done.

Rather than the typical, lip-service annual or semi-annual survey that asks employees if they have work-life balance, if they are engaged or if they are their best self, leaders should be sitting down with workers face-to-face and having a frank talk.

"If someone's life is good at home, but BS at work, or vice versa, then the employer has to address it," said Pontefract.

Gone are the days when employers only had to worry about their employees at work, because now employers have to help employees get all work-life issues sorted before they can get engagement on the job.

That means supporting the worker in all areas of their lives so they feel trusted, valued, respected and purposeful at work and have well-being and healthy relationships at home.

This doesn't mean your boss has to be your marriage counsellor if you and your spouse are having problems.

But, it might mean the company pays for the counselling with a registered therapist via work benefits and provides flexibility at work to attend the counselling sessions.

</who>Dan Pontefract's latest book comes out Oct. 24.

Work flexibility is a big post-pandemic issue.

Workers want it, and especially work-from-home options, in order to avoid time-wasting commuting and balance their work and their lives.

Before going the consultant-author-motivational speaker route, Pontefract was the chief learning officer and chief envisioner at Telus in charge of corporate culture and leadership.

Now living in Victoria, he is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business, had delivered four TED talks and 600 other keynote presentations and written four other books -- Lead Care Win, Open to Think, The Purpose Effect and Flat Army.

In keeping with the 'bloom' theme introduced the in the book's title -- Work-Life Bloom -- Pontefract puts workers, and thus how much help they need from their employer, into four categories or stages.

- Blooming, when work and life are in sync and you're really feeling your mojo

- Renewing, when it's OK at both work and in life

- Budding, thing are doing well at work, but home life sucks

- Stunted, life is good, but work is BS

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