Welcome, readers, to the theater of the absurd. Our stage is set within the evolving world of work, and we have an unexpected lead for today's performance - Martha Stewart. Famous for her homemaking empire and her chic aprons, Martha Stewart, the empress of etiquette, seems to have misread her own script. Casting a disparaging gaze on the idea of flexible work and denigrating the concept of work-life balance in an interview with Footwear News, she opines from her elevated stage, criticizing those who desire the freedoms she herself luxuriously enjoys.
From an objective perspective, her monologue feels like a tableau of hypocrisy, reminiscent of a scene in a historical drama where Marie Antoinette, oblivious to the bread shortages plaguing her subjects, innocently suggests they eat cake. One wonders how this imbalance escaped Stewart's sharp eyes.
Business Owners Aren’t Employees
As a business owner myself, I can testify that the road to success isn't always paved with roses. The journey involves burning the midnight oil, strategizing on weekends, and enduring an often grueling battle to achieve an elusive work-life balance. The demands of entrepreneurship can sometimes push personal life to the background.
But here's the difference: I never expect my employees to echo my routine. To expect everyone to work without balance is akin to expecting everyone to develop a taste for opera, just because it's my favored genre. Besides, they don’t have the kind of skin in the game that I do.
Martha's stern views on work-life balance imply a worrying cognitive bias—availability bias. This cognitive shortcut prompts us to base judgments on our immediate and personal experiences, which often leads to skewed perceptions. Martha's publicized views, in this case, reflect her personal experiences, which she erroneously extrapolates as a standard for everyone else. It's like a fish insisting that a monkey should also excel in swimming, simply because it effortlessly navigates the water itself.
Stewart critiques the French for their culturally ingrained practice of taking August off, yet she fails to comprehend the correlation between productivity, rest, and leisure. This isn't a "stupid off in August," but a strategic step that fosters rejuvenation and contributes to overall well-being. She seems to be viewing the world through a black-and-white lens, where productivity is pitted against relaxation, which is not only misleading but factually incorrect.
Contrary to her argument, the act of taking a break doesn't equate to laziness. Consider this: a sprinter who runs relentlessly without pausing for breath versus one who strategically paces their energy and takes intermittent breaths. Who would you bet on to run the longest and fastest? A balanced life isn't the enemy of productivity; it's more like an unsung hero silently powering the machinery of success.
In her fervor to herd people back into offices, Martha Stewart appears to be yearning for a bygone era that bears little relevance to today's world of work. This perspective conveniently overlooks the numerous benefits and burgeoning potential of hybrid work. It's as if a cowboy, in an age of Tesla's self-driving cars, is fervently advocating the horse as the ultimate mode of transportation.
The irony becomes even more pronounced when you consider that Stewart herself capitalized on the concept of flexible work during the lockdown. She seamlessly transformed her home into a TV studio, filming and producing content without skipping a beat. To decry flexible work while benefiting from it is akin to preaching about the benefits of a carnivorous diet while secretly indulging in a lush, leafy salad.
Stewart's admission that a work-life balance has eluded her further underscores the inconsistency in her narrative. It's a classic case of "do as I say, not as I do," akin to a skydiving instructor who has never jumped out of a plane himself, yet confidently dishes out instructions on how to execute a perfect jump.
Her views appear to reflect another cognitive bias known as the 'blind-spot bias,' which manifests when an individual fails to recognize contradictions in their own behavior. It's akin to the off-duty traffic cop who brazenly runs a red light yet doesn't hesitate to issue fines for the same offense.
As leaders and decision-makers, we need to respect and acknowledge the undeniable benefits of flexible work arrangements and the pursuit of work-life balance. This isn't merely about driving productivity. It's about ensuring human well-being, fostering a sustainable work culture, and achieving lasting success. Expecting employees to mirror your work habits is tantamount to expecting all birds to fly in the same pattern – not just unreasonable but practically unfeasible.
So, to Stewart and other CEOs who might resonate with her viewpoint, here's a plea: Let's celebrate diverse work styles and create an environment where individuals can thrive. Let's not morph into gardeners who insist that all flowers must bloom at the same time and in the same way.
Business, much like life itself, isn't a cookie-cutter art form. And as Martha Stewart herself would attest, the best cookies, the ones that add flavor and diversity to the cookie jar, come in various shapes and sizes.
Embrace flexible work and work-life balance. Expecting everyone to mirror your habits is impractical and hinders well-being and success...>Click to tweet
Image credit: Mikhail Nilov/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on April 12, 2023
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.