Let’s take a moment to reflect on all those who fought and died for our rights to a balanced life (Source: FastCompany.com) because after a few quick calculations my conclusion is that many of us are not living the balanced life they fought so hard to achieve.
Whilst their efforts were not in vain, modern society needs more growth to reach a point where we ‘work to live’ not the other way around. Below is a breakdown of a typical working year for most people employed in large corporations*. For all our talk about work/life balance, has anyone done the math? Because things don’t look very balanced to me.
For all our talk about work/life balance, has anyone done the math? Because things don’t look very balanced to me.
We may have advanced from working 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week (wait, what? did they work in advertising? ahem!) but it is not near the equitable distribution of time we need to be mentally and emotionally healthy and creatively contributing to the world at large, beyond only our contribution to the corporate bottom line and our own bank accounts.
It takes 42 seconds to do a google search on the side effects of being overworked, which yields 1,230,000,000 results. You don’t need to be an empath to understand the impact on health, relationships and creativity from work/life imbalance.
Many of you reading may be thinking “do something you love and you won’t ever have to work a day in your life.” Certainly, I think this notion can work for a certain period in one’s life, or for a certain project but not as a long term way of life and certainly not if we wish to divide our focus equally between different pursuits. And considering we are working and living longer, it makes sense to have a well-balanced distribution of time across our professional and personal life.
Wise thinkers have pointed out that we join the cult of busy because we are running away from something else. Socrates warned us to “beware the barrenness of a busy life.”http://bit.ly/2VhHrrZ
Certainly, we are required to work hard to achieve all the good things we wish to achieve in life but the point I am trying to make is that we should get to a point where people do what they love and have time to spend with family, friends and creative hobbies. It shouldn’t be a trade-off and people shouldn’t be indirectly penalised for living with this intent.
The New York Times Magazine recently published an article titled “Wealthy, Successful and Miserable,” which showed that once a person provides financially for themselves and family, additional salary and benefits don’t reliably contribute to job satisfaction rather, factors like ‘whether your job provides the ability to control your time’ become more important.
In my case, I love what I do and where I do it. My workplace is relatively understanding that I have a young family and generally accommodate my dynamic schedule. But the effects of not being more balanced certainly have started to show up in other areas of my life.
Reassessing outdated notions of Work/Life balance.
If you work for an organisation or you are currently a manager who is at all interested in staff retention, great performance, building a great company culture, you will have to get better at adapting to the idea that people don’t compartmentalise their life and sometimes there is spillage across professional/personal life. With that, we need a more accurate and balanced definition of what constitutes work/life balance and how to integrate both areas together.
For example, it no longer makes sense that we have inflexible check-in and clock-off timing inherited from bygone eras that fit around the company but not employee life schedules. This may be difficult for some old-world managers to accept.
There may be days when your staff member needs to work from home. But if you’re a micro-manager who keeps count of how many kitchen breaks your staff take, this might take some getting used to.
Work/life balance is a recognition that sometimes we do get out of balance but this can be rectified at a later time. But corporations need to be flexible and adaptive in order for staff to do this. For example, a member of staff may wish to take additional annual leave to participate in a marathon overseas and this could be accrued annual leave from all the additional time in-lieu working late nights rather than taken as leave-without-pay.
A New Dawn
Paradigms are shifting and it is necessary that we start to question some of the old structures that have held up our economy for decades. And one of the main pillars of the old structure has been corporations which push the view that we need to be achieving our KPI’s and sticking to the bottom line without consideration for employee welfare. Corporate success looks like hitting profit and growth targets and achieving management objectives, not how often staff get home to see their kids before bedtime or how many weekend conference calls their executives take. More advanced corporations have begun to examine their company culture and values, and that’s a good start.
But I say there is still more that we can do if we walk down the path of authenticity and consciousness. If we allow people to show their true nature, empower them to self-manage and work in ways that fit around their life, then businesses can be unifying clusters that unite people to fulfill a common aim, and in that way be of service to their employees and humanity at large.
This is not a socialist dream, on the contrary, I am talking about companies like Patagonia and Nadaam who live the ideals they espouse. We can start by questioning what type of company we want to work for, what start-up we want to build, and who we want to buy from, and raise these questions with our teams. Of course, we would need to hire the right people to start with.
Do the math for yourself and let me know what it looks like for you. Change starts from raising awareness and starting conversations about what good can look like.
Cover Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels.
*This is based on 25 annual leave days and does not include sick leave. Outside of maternity leave, in my 15+ year working career, I have only used my total annual sick leave once when I needed a medical procedure, have you?