There’s been a lot of buzz about work and life balance. My former company (and that of my husbands) mention it routinely. But talking about it doesn’t make it so. I am going to address what is and what is not balance as well as why all corporations, hospitals, every single entity that employs staff, must honestly strive for it.
TIME – Other than learned skills, the primary commodity an employer buys, is your time, which is finite and a different quantity for each individual. Stress shortens life. It’s ok to work hard at something and preferably something that brings you satisfaction, but it is equally important that you balance time spent at work with personal pursuits which should take up a large percentage of your day/week and allow the feeling of abundance and joy. Essentially, this time spent in personal ways provides the moments of pause necessary to truly appreciate that paycheck because you are feeling, directly, the reward. When you spend too much of your day/week on work rather than personal things, you are just a hamster in a wheel. And this would be sucky job satisfaction. Editing: “Work And Life Balance”
We all want job satisfaction because we want high quality output. We also want balanced and friendly people. I have seen some strange come from folks who routinely skip their PTO and over work too much. When you are too tired, things take longer and flat are not done at the best level because you are no longer at your best.
WHEN YOU TAKE CARE OF YOU, YOU ARE ALSO TAKING CARE OF THE COMPANY. Taking care of you works in three ways. Firstly, you want quality of life and quantity. Ultimately, you want to live a long and healthy happy life. When you are healthy, due to more free time and less stress, you gain more productive to society years. Next, your company directly benefits from you taking the very best care of you. There is less spent on sickness and shoring up when you are absent from work. There are also fewer mistakes. Lastly, if you do get the ax, you are not a spent shell of a person out there hoofing the pavement looking like left overs.
BALANCE – Balance can be that you always work an 8 (or fewer) hour day. Balance can also mean you work for a set period of time, kama kazi mode 10-12 hour days on a project with a finite scope, where, at the end of it, you get comp time and a fat bonus. Yes, both. Think about your most favourite thing to do in the world. It could be rock climbing, horseback riding, jogging, yoga, reading, watching TV or downing a tub of popcorn. For ANY of the favorite things which spring to mind, would you in complete honesty want to do that one thing for a solid 8 hours straight? How about 10 or 12 hours? How about long hours, at least 5 days straight, for months on end? Put this way, we can then understand that 8 hours of anything isn’t balance either, but it does provide for 8 hours of sleeping and another 8 to get personal pursuits tended to. We need to stop thinking of an 8 hour day as a short day or that people who work only 8 hours are somehow not as worthy as those of us who put in twice that. For those who drive into the office, some of those hours will be spent in that space of working while driving into work. I count that as work time because I spend that time thinking about and planning my day out, and sometimes taking a few conference calls. Don’t discount this time, those treks in are also working for your company. If you were not driving into the office, those hours would be spent at your home office. And on that note, we move into working from home.
WORKING FROM HOME – Some jobs are perfect for this planet saving, emission reducing tax write off. For over a decade I’ve had a full-blown home office and LOVE it! The tax break each year means the difference in getting money back or paying in. Not every job can accommodate this of course. If you are a surgeon, a contractor or Starbucks Barista, working from home is not possible. But many jobs are and this is a great way to increase productivity, reduce corporate costs and provide a space, typically 2 extra hours that would otherwise be spent driving, to get extra work done.
It takes the right mindset, someone who can work autonomously, putting the needs of their company at the forefront without direct supervision and be the role model that allows this opportunity to thrive within your company. I worked on my director for years before he finally relented. For me, it got creepy working late in the office when the lights dimmed and the vacuum cleaners started humming as the cleaning crew went to work. Then someone was robbed in the parking garage. Then someone was murdered at their desk located inside a secured, badge required building. I did not like driving home alone at night in the dark either. But when I was on a hot project, I really hated to waste any of my time that could be better spent.
The downside to working from home is that you can easily just work around the clock and center your entire life around work with your personal needs, all of them, taking a back burner. I had to set timers to get myself free of the computer, to set relaxation hours and work hours so that I created a separation of church and state. I only crossed those lines when necessary, such as when I had scheduled late night business to attend to.
An old manager used to tell our entire team how lucky we were to work from home. All of us were pulling 12+ hour days. I did not feel lucky, I felt spent and under respected. There must be balance in the way both the employee and the corporation thinks about both a workers time and work from home opportunities to create that win-win. In short, someone working from their home office should be working every bit as hard as someone driving into someplace. The only difference is the drive time and the fact that they can also toss in a load of laundry in between conference calls.
When strong employees are enabled to work from home, the company is lucky, spending less on office space and upkeep, as well as supplies. In the event of an urgent issue or in a situation of flex time, workers with laptops are able to step into work from their home office on a moment’s notice. Working from home can mean the very difference between being able to put in extra time and leaving their employment due to personal life and work conflicts.
For anyone seeking a true work life balance, I recommend Thank God It’s Wednesday, by Mark Langford.
For those of us who hike into the office daily, there are electric cars to help the planet and ways to work smarter and take control of your over hours. At the end of it all, nobody says they didn’t spend enough time in the office when reviewing their joys in life.
Here’s to being joyful, productive and balanced!