Work-life balance – A business class idea

Photo taken from TED.com

Photo taken from TED.com

This lesson idea is based around a funny and thought provoking TED talk by Nigel Marsh. The talk is titled; How to make work-life balance work.

I have used the class with C1.3 and Proficiency students and each time the talk prompts different conversations within my groups, leading to good language work and exposure to authentic listening.

Here is the link to the talk – Nigel Marsh; How to make work-life balance work. (link will open in a new tab)

Here is what I did

  • Begin the class by asking your students to discuss two questions:
  1. Do you think you have a good work-life balance?
  2. If yes, how do you maintain this balance? If no, what would you like to change to create a balance?
  • An alternative opening could be to put the following statements, taken from the video onto the board/projector and ask the students to discuss and say which they agree/disagree with.

there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hateto enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you [as] they can get away with. It’s in their nature; it’s in their DNA; it’s what they do — even the good, well-intentioned companies.

We have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries that we want in our life.

  • Let this run, and try to make notes as you listen. Get feedback and ask any more relevant questions to push the students further.
  • Next, introduce the video and the title. Tell the students that they are going to listen to exactly the first 5 minutes of the talk. I prefer to use the video purely as audio. The video contains nothing of importance visually, i.e no slides, quotes etc. The only task for the student is to listen and when the first part is over, to say whether they agree with the points mentioned in this part. Encourage the students to write down any vocabulary as they are listening.
  • In my classes the following vocabulary was picked out and discussed; startled, thorny issue, getting to the nub of smthg and abattoirs of the human soul.
  • My students had a lot to say about the talk and most genuinely agreed with what was said. It was great for getting them to personalise the subject and talk(moan) about the companies they work for.
  • Once this dies down, remind the class that at the end of the 5 minute clip, Nigel Marsh begins to talk about how he sat down and wrote out his perfect working day. The video stops just before he tells us what it is. Get your students to write down or think about their perfect working day. It needs to be based around their current job. Get them thinking about what time they would start, how many hours they would work, time for lunch, when to finish and what they would do with their spare time.
  • Get feedback and ask more questions.
  • Now the students will listen to the remaining 5 minutes of the talk. They need to compare their ideal day with that of Nigel’s and again write down any vocabulary they want to discuss. In my classes the following vocabulary was discussed after the second part; daunting, upheaval, moronically simplistic
  • Again, work with the discussions that come up after the clip and ask how the students felt about Nigel’s perfect day. To finish off, here are some questions worth discussing;
  1. Is it true that we often neglect the intellectual, spiritual and emotional side of life?
  2. Do you dream of retiring or do you live for the hear and now?
  3. What small things could you change in your life to create a better work-life balance?

I hope the lesson is useful. As always, please feel free to comment and let me know how it goes. Remember that with all TED talks you can activate subtitles and also access an interactive transcript of the talk.