Work-life balance: A little give and take
Work-life balance can mean different things to different people
Aug 16, 2011
By Brian Kreissl
It’s ironic how I’m sitting here typing a blog post on work-life balance at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday. To be fair, I’m usually not working at this hour on the weekends, but I think this illustrates a valid point in the whole debate about work-life balance — achieving balance means different things to different people.
Personally, nothing brings me balance and a sense of accomplishment better than being able to check things off my to-do list. If I have that nagging feeling of unfinished business on a Friday afternoon, I won’t be able to enjoy my weekend nearly as much as if I’d worked that little bit extra to accomplish something important.
Now, this is obviously a little different — rather than finishing something off at work before I leave, I’m getting an early start to the work week on a Sunday morning. While I really enjoy writing these blog posts, I’ve simply got too much “real” work on my plate right now to justify spending a good chunk of Monday morning writing my blog.
Like most sane people, I’d normally be sleeping at this time on a Sunday morning. But I fell asleep fairly early last night (on the living room couch) and woke up early after the dog woke me up to go out.
Because my wife is at work, my daughter is still sleeping and the dog is just relaxing, I don’t see the harm in working. For once, no one seems to be making any demands on my time. And if I wasn’t working right now, I’d just be mindlessly surfing the net.
Compartmentalizing work, home life
Yet I do realize many people would have a different perspective on this. They’d see me as a workaholic who isn’t successfully compartmentalizing his work and leisure time.
But for many of us, that kind of compartmentalization is a myth. Unless you have a certain type of job where you just have to leave your work at the workplace, your work life is just going to intrude on your personal life.
I sometimes feel a little envious of our friends, a couple who are both bus drivers. They never have to take work home with them or work a minute of unpaid overtime. Added to that, they’re better off financially than we are.
But then I stop and think about it. While I’m not knocking anyone for what they do for a living, I personally wouldn’t enjoy driving a bus for a living. To me, it would be boring and monotonous, and it’s difficult sometimes even to go for a bathroom break. Added to that, they have to deal with hostile customers and an adversarial union-management relationship.
More importantly, however, my friends have their own challenges with work-life balance. Namely, they have to work varied and unsociable hours (I certainly wouldn’t want to start work at 4 a.m. or work weekends).
A little give and take from employers
So, I suppose being a white collar manager isn’t so bad. I have some choice about where and when I work. I can grab a coffee, go to the bathroom, take my lunch or even go for a walk or do some online banking when I choose.
In terms of my work, I’m doing what I enjoy and using what I learned in school. Because of that, my work often doesn’t feel like work, so I don’t mind if it occasionally intrudes into my personal life.
I’m also fortunate enough to work for an employer that doesn’t just pay lip service to the whole idea of work-life balance. We have Friday afternoons off, and you normally don’t see many people in the office after about 5:30 p.m. (in fact, most are gone by 5 p.m.).
Even if I do often work longer than that, I still don’t think I have it too bad compared with many managers and professionals in other companies and industries. So many employers still have a long hours culture, even in the face of unpaid overtime litigation.
Employers therefore need to realize, when it comes to work-life balance, there has to be some give and take. If people are expected to be on call after hours or work long hours to meet tight deadlines, they should be allowed to leave early once in a while to watch their kids play soccer, take an extended lunch break as a team, do some banking or quickly check their Facebook accounts.
Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.consultcarswell.com.
Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.