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Everything I Needed to Know About Work-Life Balance I Learned in the 80's

Aug 09, 2022

Work-life balance is in every workplace headline these days… between return to work, the Great Resignation, flexibility, recharging, culture and onboarding… it’s more abuzz than ever.

But what if best practices have been under our noses the whole time? Like in books, movies and shows from the 1980’s? Hear me out…

Boundaries & Meeting Fatigue

Gary Vee and Brene Brown may be thought leaders, but so was Kristy Thomas! Like the true original CHIEF member she was, Kristy made it crystal clear to clients that the Baby-Sitters Club team would be available Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:30-6. No meeting fatigue here – clear boundaries respected by all. She reserved “emergency meetings” only for mission-critical issues… such as when the rival “Baby-sitters Agency” threatened their business… or when they needed to align on whether the sudden bad luck that the members all experienced could have been caused by a chain letter.

Healthy Lifestyles

Benefits leaders and internal comms teams aim to provide messaging around personal health. Perhaps they could take some cues from Ramona Quimby, who boldly embarked on a powerful anti-smoking campaign in her household to convince her father to quit the habit. Sure, she may have needed a team to teach her proper spacing as her “NO SMOKING” sign turned into “NOSMO KING” when she ran out of room on the first line, but she influenced a senior colleague (Beezus) to join her and get creative in their messaging (“Stamp Out Cigarettes”) and gained her father’s commitment to try to quit.

Onboarding

As the Harvard Business Review says, onboarding can make or break a new hire’s experience. No one showed this better than the “Police Academy” film. Commandant Lassard used a blend of experiential learning and team-building to create a unified group of cadets that all made it through their training program… and saved their leadership (minus some minor/major property damage).

Upward Feedback

Junior employees often struggle with whether/how to provide feedback to senior leaders. Watch the first few minutes of “Weekend at Bernie’s” and you’ll see newbie employees take findings of potential issues straight to the CEO. Of course, that CEO is Bernie, and… you may know the rest, but the two employees taking initiative and synthesizing their report in a succinct manner is a lesson for all.

Caring People Leader

HBR research also discusses ad nauseam the importance of being a caring people leader. No one knows that better than Edna Garrett, who rose from her role as the Drummonds’ housekeeper on Diff’rent Strokes to becoming the dorm housemother on “Facts of Life.” She did not shirk from leadership – instead, she addressed challenging topics head-on with sensitivity, from peer pressure to interpersonal relationships to diversity & inclusion. A true leader ahead of her time!

Cheers to lessons from years ago… what are other 1980s work-life themes? I don’t know about you, but I’m now craving Pop Rocks and Tab!

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