Have you ever blamed the IMF for “stealing” your spouse and felt that they are more in love with the IMF than they are with you and your family?
Have you asked your spouse repeatedly why they work so many hours?
Have you recently wondered why you are the only one dealing with almost everything at home: your kids, school, finances, holidays, social life, repairing of the house …and the dog? You are not alone!
Did you know that IMFFA has a program dedicated to Work Life Balance (WLB) at the IMF since 2014? Valérie Lucchesi Natal and I (Nathalie Fischer) are the WLB team. We have not revolutionized the IMF yet, but we are making good progress and we are still hopeful to bring a better WLB to all Fund staff and their families!
We both got involved because we were frustrated with our husbands not really being in our lives when we needed them, so we decided that something had to be done. We started by trying to understand our husbands’ “attraction” to the IMF. What did this “ugly mistress” have that we did not? Then we organized several events and conferences on WLB in 2014. Slowly but surely we were starting to understand the “beast”. It turns out that most Fund Staff enjoy their work: they are proud of working for the IMF because they feel that they are contributing to a better world. The IMF culture also plays a very important role. Many employees feel that they have to put in long hours if they want to move up the career ladder. Competition is fierce and job progression can be scarce. Valerie and I also realized that the Human Resource Department had already put into place several incentives to help people balance their work and life but few were using them.
So in 2015, we decided to push for a culture change. This is like moving a mountain – easier said than done! We initiated a conversation between staff and management using the medium of interviews with WLB as the main topic. Each interview was published online on the front page of the Intranet (IMF’s internal website) and people were able to rate and comment on each interview. Rarely have articles on the Intranet attracted so much praise, interest and comments. It’s a big hit! If you are interested to read some of them, you can also view them on IMFFA’s website at: http://imffa.org/programs/work-life-balance
This is a summary of what people said:
- WLB needs to come from the top and be showcased by the senior management.
- The Fund’s culture is ours, so we can all change it, we just need to know how to make the changes.
- Flexibility with work schedule and teleworking is key to achieve WLB. It helps staff to participate actively in family life: for instance by bringing your child to their after school activities, taking care of elderly parents, etc. Flexibility implies trust: managers must trust that their staff will deliver quality and timely work irrespective of where they are – in this modern age, you don’t need to be tied to the office desk to get the job done! (For example: my husband tries to come home early several days per week, but then often goes back to his computer after dinner. If he has no meeting scheduled during a day, he chooses to telework avoiding more than one hour of commute).
- Several managers felt inspired by these articles and were willing to pursue the conversation within their department.
- Many also noted that the situation is slowly getting better over the last few years.
- Talking about WLB also implies talking about good leadership. A good leader cannot spend time micro-managing staff. A leader needs to break the shield and dare to trust. Their good example and progressive management style will attract new staff and in time they may be able to choose from amongst the best motivated staff in the Fund.
- WLB is not only happening at the IMF. This is an important goal of human resource departments of many trendsetting American companies embracing the 21st century fully.
Valerie and I encourage you to discuss this topic with your partner, your work colleagues and manager. These conversations will lead to better understanding, better acceptance and hopefully solutions for all.
We would also love to read your comments and suggestions. After all, we are all in this together.