This week is the national work-life balance week her in Denmark (read all about it in Danish), and in honor of that, this week’s postings will all be about balancing work and life outside of work. This is of course an enormously important skill, and any lasting imbalance in this area is likely to make us unhappy at work and in life.
It’s been getting more difficult for many of us to maintain that balance for a few reasons:
Employment is changing. It used to be a straight swap: so many hours for so much money. Punch in in the morning, punch out in the evening. Today’s more flexible work arrangements mean that you can’t necessarily know in advance how much you’ll be working.
Technology. It used to be that when you went home, you were off the clock. Cell phones, email, faxes etc. have made us reachable everywhere and further blurred the boundary between life and work. The net result has been that people work more and more hours – in fact the number of hours the average employee spends working is steadily rising.
Jobs are changing. As many jobs change from production to knowledge and creative work, they tend to get more interesting, so we want to spend more time at them.
Now, I’m not saying that these things are bad and we should turn back the clock to a previous era of predictable, boring work. I’m saying that this is new to us and we’re still figuring out how to navigate these new waters. What choices are we facing? How can we find answers? What tools do we need? How do others thrive in these conditions?
I have every faith in us finding out over the next decade and good companies and good leaders are one of the most important factors. For a a good example of good and bad leaders, see this recent post: Work less, do more. Who do you think helps employees achieve work-life balance – Tom or Sarah?
It’s crucial that we do learn to find the balance. According to a study in the UK, parents who work full time spend 19 minutes a day caring for their children. Adventuredad has a great commentary on that article:
19 minutes a day? That is absolutely nothing. You barely have time to have a basic conversation with your children in this time. I must really question the point of having children when you see them this little. Parents see their pets more than that.
And one thing is not spending enough time with your kids. Your friends, your family and your spouse/partner might also appreciate spending some time with you once in a while :o)
And last, but not least, there’s yourself. I’m a very extroverted person, but even I need quiet time alone or I get seriously cranky. I need time to read, surf the net, watch Lost, go to the movies and to think.
Another worrisome tendency is the fact that many of us cut into our sleep time in order to fit more work into the day, and that may not be healthy for all of us. Too little sleep will not only make you tired and cranky, it also weakens your immune defence, so there’s a greater change of you becoming ill.
For all of these reasons it’s important for us to learn to find the right balance between work and not-work. I have every confidence we will and that what we’re seeing now is just a transitional phase as we get to grip with all the new opportunities that a changing work life offers us.