Sharing is always good!

What is work-life balance? This is something I find to be in constant flux as the line between our work life and home life becomes all the more blurred by advancements in technology.

I got my first cell phone my senior year of high school. I paid for it. I paid for the plan. It has come a long way since then. What is the new “acceptable availability”. A long time ago, the 40 hour work week was the standard (I know some of you are laughing), but where is the new line? Living the agency life, requests come in at all hours — should I be expected to respond at 3AM because a client has insomnia? Of course there are times when you make yourself available, but should I be available 24/7 just because I can?

Somehow, and I could be wrong about this, I feel that there is an expectation in the workforce today that payment=ownership — whether it be the employer/employee relationship or the client/agency relationship.

Where does one turn for advice?

I find advice on this topic to be tricky — based on the situation. Advice from a friend is far different than advice from a manager or coworker. I think it all comes down to the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) question for the advice giver. Friends care. Managers/Coworkers — I think this is where it gets hazy. Some do care about you as a person with the realization that we are all people — but then there are the managers that give self-serving advice (crazy, I know) — or simply spout the company line — “you will have to figure it out”, “hard workers get ahead”, “sometimes it takes the extra mile…” and so on. If you look carefully, some advice will make their life easier — not yours, so be careful.

Checking out articles in the industry trade journal about the topic, I find these articles point out that any remote level of success requires a personal drive and 24/7 availability — anything less and you might as well not show up for work. My other discovery — they are also typically written by owners, founders, co-founders, etc. and not an employee (you also find that founders and self-described gurus are quite plentiful in the online world — who knew a year on the internet made you a guru?).

Why is that an important distinction?

When you are the owner and have a fairly full view of how the hard work will benefit you directly it is quite a bit different from the view of the employee.

For consideration:

It’s possible that as you read this you are thinking to yourself that this is a lazy point of view. The suggestion being that I don’t think you should give 100%.

Not the case.

When dealing with the intangibles of the world it is harder to make your case.

Tangible argument: Let’s say I have a truck that can move 5 crates from one location to another. Now, let’s say my manager asks me to carry 6 crates. In this case, I would say it will take two trips. No matter which way the request is made — I can only take 5 crates. (We could go into the “new truck” discussion, but let’s keep it simple).

Intangible argument: In an 8 hour day I can run 8 TPS reports. However, the company figures out that 9 TPS reports per day would increase profitability, so my manager tells me that 9 TPS reports are now required. In this case, I might say that each TPS report takes an hour — and let’s say again for simplicity that this is a generally accepted principle so there is nothing else to be optimized to do it any faster — and that another TPS report would add an hour to the day.

In a movie, the employee would give an impassioned speech and end up only doing 8 TPS reports. In real life, you end up working a 9 hour day that creeps to 11 before you know it.

What gives to make up for those extra hours at work? The life balance. I have heard managers and owners continually make the argument that in this economy — or any economy — it is irresponsible not to get your work done. There is also the speech about “getting ahead”, “doing what is asked of you”, “having a pretty sweet gig”, “lucky to be employed” — I am sure you have a few of your own that you can fill in too. You get the idea. But with fewer employees and an unending stream of work, where is the line?

If I don’t do what my employer asks or give the extra time, there can be tangible results: no raises, no promotions, maybe even getting fired.

Where do the intangibles fit in? What about my responsibility to my family? What is the impact of missing dinner with the family? Missing t-ball games? Missing plays? How do you measure economic impact versus psychological impact? Tangible v. intangible.

As with most things, I don’t think there is a “one-size-fits-all” answer. I drew a line in the sand, but it’s not absolute. There are busy seasons and projects and things that take extra time. These are exceptions and get the time required. But during those normal weeks and months, when I am home and engaged with my family — I am with them 100%. I am committed to them.

Does failing on the responsibilities to my family for the responsibilities of work really make me a harder worker, better employee and generally better person? I think I know the people that will be at my funeral versus those that will read my obituary and wonder why the name is familiar.

Sharing is always good!