Work-life balance does not exist. Work is part of our lives; it is not something we put our life on hold to do.

Life keeps going whether we are working or not. As such, HR and organizational development specialists have started using words like "total" and "whole" to describe compensation packages and ideal employees. We are recognizing that we are all multifaceted individuals with many roles in our lives, and these roles are not confined to the times we are at work or home.

Organizations are becoming more creative with their approach to work hours, work location and pay/benefits packages to better acknowledge their employees' needs. Companies are also offering more programs to support stress reduction and healthy living, as well as opportunities for employees to contribute to school or community programs. By recognizing we all wear many hats, organizations are better able to attract and retain happy, healthy and therefore productive employees.

But are more programs better? One emerging trend in this area is the idea of minimalism. A movement often associated with a clean interior design aesthetic or moving into tiny houses, minimalism is also finding its way into the work environment.

Do more with less

We have all had to find ways do more with less at work. While we may not have thought of this as minimalism, but the phrase is a starting point for how to think of minimalism at work.

One of the basic tenets of minimalism is editing out as many unimportant things as possible so that what remains is the stuff that warrants our attention. In other words, remove the distractions and focus on what is important; doing so will allow us to accomplish more. At work, this can take several forms.

From an administrative and operational perspective, it can translate to delegating tasks to our teams and streamlining the number of and time we spend at meetings. Strategically, it can mean stripping away redundant reports, superfluous meetings and poor communication models.

This may sound easy, but just like trying to reduce your belongings to fit in a tiny house, it can require some significant shifts in our approach.

To delegate tasks, we must feel comfortable our team members are ready. To streamline meetings, we must know that work will get done and communication will happen. To implement those actions, we must make sure we have spent time investing in our team and our systems to support the approach.

Admitting there's a problem

Once we have started to implement these minimalist tactics, many of us realize we have a bigger problem: We simply have too much to do at work. We see this after doing an honest assessment of our goals and capacity — that after removing the extras, what remains is still too much.

Even if our team was working as productively as possible, many of us discover there are still too many areas of focus for our teams to be successful.

That realization is a critical step in implementing a minimalist approach at work. Armed with that knowledge, leaders can then take the next step of whittling down the priority list to what is truly important. And by ensuring we are focused on what should warrant our attention, we can ensure our team is headed in the right direction as well.

Check out the next article in this series for some simple minimalist-style steps to start removing the obstacles of overwork.