In with the new and out with the old! Psychotherapist Noah Mugenyi explains why "work-life rhythm" is what we should be aiming for, not work-life balance. Read on to understand how Noah's perspective can help you with stress management and improve your relationships with your colleagues at work.
This past week I had the privilege of sitting down with Toronto, Canada-based counselor and psychotherapist, Noah Mugenyi. As a mental health & clinical psychotherapist, Noah's experience includes working at the Michael Garron Hospital (formerly Toronto East General Hospital WMS), The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW), Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, and The Royal Canadian Yacht Club, before serving as current clinical director at Toronto East Psychotherapy. On top of all this, Noah's personal journey becoming a therapist is inspiring in its own right.
Zach: On the subject of work-life balance, I noticed that in the recent article you published on our blog Work-Life Balance: The Need For Self-Awareness & Care you used the term “life-work balance.” Is that a deliberate choice, to use that structure? At least in my experience “work-life balance” is the common term that people use.
Noah: I’m actually leaning towards a new term that I call “work-life rhythm.” When I look at life, we are beings that are physical– moving, motion. The way we view work, from my perspective moving from aviation to psychology, is you go to work and you have clear expectations to meet or rigid parameters to work within. Yet, it is still a moving process. There are always a lot of things you have to juggle, a dance you have to do to get by because things usually don’t unfold as expected– that’s for both work and personal stuff.
So I’m leaning toward rhythm instead of balance because there is no perfect balance.
We all have our own needs, even in the work force. We might be working on the same project but the way you handle your workload is probably different from mine. Your relationship needs are different from mine. So it’s a rhythm that we must sustain, there is no perfect balance. And as we age, and transition to other stages, that rhythm changes. We must adapt to that changing rhythm.
Zach: Do you think workers need to be given the flexibility by their managers to dance to the beat of their own drum? The bottom line should be that you get the job done. How you do it shouldn’t matter as much because each individual needs to do what is best for them.
Noah: To answer that, I feel communication is key. It’s one of my core values coming from an aviation background. If you don’t communicate information can get lost. Everyone needs to be constantly kept informed so you can work more effectively together. Deadlines aren’t always going to be met, and that’s okay, but with open communication you can easily identify what needs to be improved upon.
Zach: So do you believe it’s the responsibility of the manager or executive to give their employees the benefit of the doubt when they express their emotions? I ask this because I think often times when we have these sorts of conversations, at least in the past, when you make statements like “my relationship has got me down”, or something like that, you’re met with skepticism. Do you think that in order to have a healthy and sustainable company culture you have to be willing, especially if you’re in a position of power, to give people the benefit of the doubt?
I prefer to call that “to have an open door, which is safe.” If we feel safe, which also leads me to the topic of vulnerability, we actually allow people to express their needs, beyond “what is my boss going to think of me?”
I tell people on a daily basis that expressing our needs, or being vulnerable, is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength.
So when I come to you as my executive, and I say “You know what Zach, this is what I’m going through, but I’m here to really make things better. I know you have my back and the resources to support me.” We should embrace such behavior. I would encourage every organization and individual to really start talking about these things. Until we start addressing these needs we are far away from what we need for success.
The remainder of the interview with Noah will come to the blog in the next week or so. We will also cover the general importance of open communication for mental health and wellness. Follow our blog to hear more from Noah on this topic and many others. If you're searching for the other parts to this recent interview with Noah, see the links below.
To consult with Noah Mugenyi in-person or remotely from his Toronto office, contact him directly through his profile.
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