Switch On & Switch Off – New Way In Which Leaders Balance Work-Life


Remember the Hollywood movie The Intern, in which a 70-year-old widower decided to be an intern of a company to fight the monotony in his life? Interestingly, that man — Ben Whittaker — later ended up mentoring the CEO of the same company about work-life balance.

On a lighter note, even the senior leadership of a company may end up mixing their work and family life. And the pandemic surely has added to their misery. With uncountable work-related calls and no set office spaces, everyone in the hierarchy is suffering and looking out for solutions to end this agony.

Manish Punjabi, Head – Learning & Development (General Manager – COE L&D), Sales, Leadership & Behavioural Competency Academy, UltraTech Cement, has two kids — Tej, who is six years old and Sarhana, who is two years old. When the remote working started, luckily his wife Yahvi and he decided to dedicate one of the rooms in the house for fixed office space during the day. And to ensure that his young kids understand that he is in office, the first 2-3 months of the lockdown, he continued to be dressed in formals.

“During the daytime, we started referring to the room as Office. So, I get almost undisturbed space throughout the day and can focus on work. However, it’s not been easy. Every time I step out of the room, the kids would feel that the office is over. It has been more than a year and till date, whenever I come out of the room, my kids follow a ritual to come and hug me!” Punjabi exclaimed.

Punjabi calls this the Switch On – Switch Off way of living. Within seconds after breakfast, he Switches On and starts working and within milliseconds of stepping out of his bedroom ─ the room which is referred to as the office in his home ─ he Switches Off from the employee mode and enters fatherhood mode.

The routine may sound a little trickier, but this is what work from home has taught us! Within seconds after lunch, the remaining 15 minutes before his next team call, he helps his wife with some household work. Punjabi said, “While reflecting, I feel that I miss the drive to the office and back where I could switch my mind between roles.”

It must have been said a lot of times — The pandemic has made us realize that our family is our only strength. For Punjabi, rejuvenation means spending time with his wife and playing strategic board games, doing dance workouts or watching television. His wife owns a toys and books library. Punjabi enjoys playing those games with his kids.

Punjabi has always been a great learner. He feels that learning happens throughout life. But the pandemic has made him believe in three words – Learn, Earn and Return. Apart from learning and earning, he also tries to give back to the society by writing and sharing his learnings and ideas with students.

Pushing through tough days? Family is the key!

Punjabi said he owes his wife for giving him all the space. He always remains super excited about doing more and more at work and at the same time spending peaceful time with his wife, kids, family, friends and relatives.

The first phase of the lockdown was the most effort consuming part because it turned everyone’s life upside down. “My wife provided me with the space to capture a room and call it ‘Office’. She ensured that my son and my daughter understood that although their father will be home, he will yet not be at home,” he exclaimed while thanking his wife.

Talking about managing time and keeping stress away, Punjabi said, “I keep a strong check on prioritizing things. I have frequent discussions with my reporting manager, my team, and my stakeholders on the timelines, changes in priorities, etc. This helps us all achieve more together without having an environment of stress.”

“There are times when timelines are tight and, in such situations, I’ve always believed that it is important to stretch and keep the organisation, the stakeholders, the customers at the core to deliver. I’ve always had great reporting managers and stakeholders, like my current reporting manager Kashap Thorve, who has been extremely respectful and realistic of timelines during the pandemic. Also, the real strength for me lies in my team members who have always been willing to do whatever it takes on just one single call or request, knowing that we are in it together and knowing that we are all willing to give in all that we have,” he further said.

Punjabi believes, “Every day comes with questions and we attempt to co-create answers. It becomes tough only when we add the adjective ‘tough’ to it.”

“I’ve been associated with an organisation named Tej Gyan Foundation, also known as Happy Thoughts. The learning from the courses I’ve attended there has put me in a place to live life in a more meaningful manner and be stable. I attempt to focus on the bigger picture, higher-order,” he said.

According to Punjabi, “Irrespective of the situation, if one is peaceful internally and is thinking about not just oneself but also focusing on the people and their benefit, then no day is tough. This becomes easier when you are working with amazing people, good reporting managers, passionate team members and collaborative colleagues. This way, the stress doesn’t keep trickling your brain.”

Read, watch movies and vacay!

Punjabi usually reads research papers, white papers, articles, etc. Currently, that habit is also helping him with the PhD course that he is pursuing through the HR College of Commerce & Economics (University of Mumbai). Interestingly, he is also a fan of video-based microlearning.

“On average, I’ve been upskilling myself with 20-25 courses on LinkedIn Learning over the last three years. I enjoy watching them and doing the activities mentioned in these courses late in the night,” he asserted.

Some of the courses that he has completed recently include the following:

-Leading with Emotional Intelligence – Britt Andreatta

-Human Centred Leadership – Sesil Pir

-Leadership Blind Spots – Sara Canaday

-Developing your Leadership Philosophy – Mike Figliuolo

-Strategic Human Resources – Catherine Mattice Zundel

-Strategic Workforce Planning – Wayne Cascio

-Ken Blanchard on Servant Leadership – Ken Blanchard

Punjabi also loves to watch movies. He tends to learn a lot from them. “They help create a winning mindset,” he said.

The entire set of Avengers movies is Punjabi’s favourite. “In fact, my son and I have Captain America’s Shield, Thor’s Hammer/Mjolnir, Iron Man’s Gloves. We enjoy Avengers so much that prior to the pandemic, along with my son and my niece Krisha, I also visited Avengers Station in Mumbai where all actual suits of Iron Man movies from Iron Man 1 to End Game, Thor’s Hammer/Mjolnir, Captains Shield were on display and we could also play AR/VR games of Iron Man there,” Punjabi said with a sparkle in his eyes.

Talking about visiting places, Punjabi and his family love travelling, exploring, and creating new memories. “We hope and pray for things to be back to normal and honestly, amongst many reasons, one reason for that is to be able to travel with mental peace and freedom,” he exclaimed.

Punjabi has visited several places, in and out of India. However, for him, more than the destination, it is about the moments or feelings that last for a lifetime. “Each of the travels has some moments, some stories which make us feel happy and bring a smile on our face,” he added while reminiscing about his travel days.

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