The supermarket is a great place to tap into the pulse of people's lives. I don't eavesdrop, but discussions often occur in such a way that I'm sure the people doing the talking must think they're in a bubble and can't be overheard. I could write a book on the things I've heard while shopping for bread and grapes and I'm sure you could too.
SUPERMARKETS ... MORE THAN JUST FOOD
Standing at the deli counter recently, I heard two women - who clearly had not seen each other in a while - sharing their respective "tsoris" (Yiddish for suffering or hurt). One was doing most of the talking about her elderly father who needed to move into an assisted living facility while her pre-teen child was going through his own difficulties and angst. I could relate (and wanted to say so) since I went through the independent living/assisted living/nursing home/hospice nightmare with my own father several years ago while my child was dealing with unrelenting bullying in school. I could see in her face - and I only glanced quickly - that she was barely functional.
There was no way to know whether this woman was also working outside of the home but if so, her candle was not burning at both ends but was about to be extinguished. Issues of this magnitude have a significant impact on a person's work as family needs overlay all else. And because life isn't linear and these life situations don't exist in neat, succinct packages where you deal with one thing at a time, chaos can become a way of existence.
IT'S NOT THIS OR THAT
Work/life is a "juggle and a struggle" but just as importantly, it's not an either/or scenario. While every employee at every life stage is dealing with different issues, one thing is for sure ... it's a rare individual who is facing just one work/life challenge. Issues often arise together or back-to-back, creating a push-pull ripe with conflict and forcing a rapid shift in priorities, all while taking a daily toll in virtually every aspect of life.
A working parent vs. a single person. Someone with medical issues vs. someone facing retirement. An employee with financial pressures vs. one with elder care needs. Every need and situation is different and "best companies" are constantly searching for ways to respond. Yet it's essential that organizations also recognize that it's not an either/or scenario ... that many employees are dealing with more than one issue and many times, more than one at a time. And these needs continue to evolve and change.
WHAT'S TOP OF MIND
It's often the case that when one situation abates, another quickly take its place. Some issues are never revealed or discussed, yet take a huge toll on an employee's functioning and health. Others require so much of a person's time and attention that achieving any balance is beyond reach. Sometimes an employee can barely catch his/her breath before it hits the fan again and while the fan keeps on spinning, so does the employee.
There's really no difference between the ebb and flow of business and the ebb and flow of life. With one exception. I've yet to hear anyone in the supermarket talking about profit margins or sales quotas, but do hear plenty about marriages, children, elderly parents, college applications, teens in crisis, divorces, foreclosures, and the need for vacations. It's not that people aren't thinking about work or that it isn't important. It's just that home, family, and life are what's being discussed at the deli counter.