Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Chugging along

September 24th, 2012 · No Comments · Uncategorized

It is easy to forget that people are complex beings with complex lives.  As organizational researchers we spend a great deal of time focussed on how to enhance individual productivity.  When a person is not performing as they should, we often attribute the failure to some sort of deficit – lack of motivation, lack of ability, or lack of will.  In fact, the ability and the will might be strong but other factors might be draining psychological resources.  

There is a great deal of popular and scholarly writing on work-life balance.  It is not a space where I spent a lot of time researching but at times when my ‘real life’ interferes with my ability to get the work done, I do value the fact that there are folks out there acknowledging, researching, and validating the challenge of integrating one’s work self with one’s personal self.  I have been fortunate for most of my career in that work has not felt like ‘work.’  I love my research and my teaching responsibilities so most days the work is a nice ‘break’ or shift away from all of the other things that I do on a daily basis.  (I recognize that this is a luxury and that I am quite fortunate so please stop sending me nasty thoughts for gloating about it.) But, like everyone else, there are times when real life is consuming.  Given that my work is largely creative in nature, when my mind is occupied with other things, the real challenge becomes turning my thoughts back to the work.  Because of all of this, recently I have been really interested in the part of the work-life balance research that looks at psychological resources.  

For a long time researchers have looked at balance from the perspective of time.  How much time do I have to be at work and how much time do I get to do the other stuff (family, sport, friends, leisure etc.).  More recently, psychologists have spent more time looking at the cognitive resources allocated to each.  When I am at home with my family how much time do I spend thinking about work and vice versa.  Given that a large volume of the work that we do in North America at the moment is ‘knowledge-based’, work has become entirely portable.  You can be pushing your toddler on a swing while thinking about how to handle the 9am sales call.  Argh!  It is a sad state of affairs.  What is also means is that productivity is a complex function of cognitive resource allocation.  If things are troubling on the home front, there are less resources for work stuff.  Now, I recognize that most of you have likely experienced this first hand.  I just like having a psychological explanation for things.  It give me great comfort to be able to explain my success (or lack thereof!) in cognitive terms.  

So the obvious question is – what is to be done about it?  When you are experiencing significant cognitive distractions, how do you get yourself back on track?  I write – a Blog perhaps. 


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