Submitted by Chris.Lodge on
I have listened to the pod cast “Work Family Balance - Chapter 1 - Go Home” and I’m not impressed or excited.
I’m not saying that family life is not important, but what is it with all this work life balance is impossible stuff? How about updating your thinking to modern times and stop living in the Victorian era.
You say there is no work life balance; I say “why are you talking about work life balance in the first place?”
This yellow chocolate peanut compared to the sun analogy is just an Aunt Sally (American call it a Straw Man). You have built this Aunt Sally just to knock it down, suggesting that this refutes the argument against work life balance. No it doesn’t. It simply states that comparing a yellow chocolate peanut to the sun is ridiculous. You may have told this story a thousand time Mark, but doesn’t make it right.
We live in an era where I can, if I wish, produce the company’s reports from a beach in Malabo or go into the office to watch a movie. We don’t live in Victorian times, where not being at your place of work means nothing gets produced. There are no boundaries to what we can do where and we need to embrace this and alter our thinking accordingly. And by that I mean time.
Stop talking about time and start talking about results. All this “coming in late”, “going home”, “working an extra hour at work” is all time orientated and doesn’t focus on the most important thing; is the work getting done?
When you start thinking in this way, work life balance becomes irrelevant.
This weekend I’m going to cut the grass, do the washing and ironing and have a BBQ. I don’t know how long it will take me, what time I will start the jobs or what time I will finish them. As long as I get them done before Monday, I’ll be happy. Why should work be any different?
Maybe it's time for YOU to
Maybe it's time for YOU to realize that not all workers have the utopian existance that you do. Some people have to be in the office, not on a beach, for a company that pays attention to who is there for what hours more than they care about results.
It's not idea, but it's a reality that you seem to have left.
My Two Cents
1. Chris, if your culture is as you described, count yourself fortunate. For many of us that's as TomW described, "utopian." My culture is still saddled with core hours and with some managers who believe working from home equals slacking off. It is in cultures like mine where this podcast resonates. In my twenties, in another career, I became a workaholic. Fortunately, I was single at the time, but my inability to engage in priority management most likely prevented me from developing personal and professional relationships that would have made my life more productive.
2. I want to challenge all managers to think about how you can apply this podcast to your directs. Do you begrudge them when they leave work to attend their third-grader's school play? Or when they leave at the same time each day even though you stay later? In 1981, as an entry level employee, I faced a serious health issue. My COO gave his consent to allow me to adjust my work habits to accommodate that illness and this was in the days before laws were passed dealing with FMLA and public accommodations. In short, he demonstrated loyalty down the organization. I never forgot that and my mantra to my directs as always been "Family comes first." That includes taking care of your own health as well as being there for your family.
There is no what should be. There is only what is.
Chris - I admire your idealism, but let me echo the above posts. The job you're describing probably doesn't exist and if it does, it isn't relevant to 99% of the world. And the first rule is to embrace reality.
Second, MT isn't talking about work/life balance. They're talking about work/family. You may think that's just semantics but I'd argue the word choice actually makes a difference on how you think about and approach this. (I don't know about you but I'm living my life when I work - and when I'm with my family!)
Finally, I don't think Mark was talking about time in the way you've characterised. The thrust of the cast was about priority management and managing time was just one tactic you can use to measure your priorities. Don't confuse the two.
I could do my annual reports while sitting on a beach with the kids, but I'm not really spending time with them am I? By your measure, the work got done and the barriers between work and life became invisible - but invisible only to you, I'm sure the kids see it differently. (There's no such thing as multi-tasking, you can only focus on one thing at a time to do it well.)
I spoke to a social worker once who told me that the concept of "quality time" with kids was a complete myth. Kids want TIME with you, and the more the better. (I think this applies to spouses too actually!) So if you don't allocate time exclusively to your family, that hurts the family.
Same with work - people who don't prioritise their work let the work suffer. This lack of prioritisation means most people let their work bleed into their most important priority, their family. And that's when the problem happens.
Haven't listened to the cast, but...
What about thinking of your family as not "mutually exclusive" from all work tasks, but as opportunity to simply interact with people (more communication is always better). In this way they act as resources when the lines of work/family are blurred. Instead of 'escaping' the kids/spouse for 10 minutes to submit a report, does anyone have experience somehow consolidating the two--i.e. asking the family for input on critical thinking tasks or new direct coaching? Your spouse should have some experience as either a direct or a manager; aren't they more than happy to provide input?
Never The Twain Shall Meet
My father worked for a major international corporation for his entire career. I recall him coming home on those nights when he wasn't traveling and he and Mom would sit there and talk to each other about their days. Mom was an important sounding board and I am convinced she proved the saying that "Behind every successful man stands a woman." He rose steadily through the ranks into senior management.
However, (you knew there was a "However," right?) neither he nor I would agree with your suggestion. The yellow M & M and the Sun are two totally separate things with only color and roundness in common. For the same reason, I believe work and home, while occasionally having similarities are best kept apart with the exception of talking things over with your spouse or partner, or at an age-appropriate level with your kids.
My perception of your suggestion is that the lines would be blurred, and for those not well-versed in priority management, or separating home and life would find themselves focusing on the wrong priorities.
Astute observation; I'll remember this as my career progresses and I'll search for that cast soon.
There Is Always More Work...
You object to the metaphor. OK, you're not a metaphor guy.
My understanding of what Mark said is that the work urgencies and emergencies will never stop. There is an unbounded amount of work in any company. You have to consciously disengage when its time to go home. Set the departure time 4:30, 5:00, 6:00 whatever. Stick to it. Be at least as reliable to your family as you strive to be for work.
After having messed this up a few times, I now make sure to leave on time. Quality of family life can and will deteriorate rapidly if you dishonour your comitments often. The work you do in those extra, late hours will never outearn that loss of value / quality of life.
"We live in an era where I
"We live in an era where I can, if I wish, produce the company’s reports from a beach in Malabo or go into the office to watch a movie. We don’t live in Victorian times, where not being at your place of work means nothing gets produced. There are no boundaries to what we can do where and we need to embrace this and alter our thinking accordingly. And by that I mean time."
We live in an era where the technology exists to allow this, not an era where it is the norm. Or even approaching the norm. You've created a picture of a reality where these things are universally accepted and embraced. They're not. Not even close. Often they're stigmatized.
Nor is sitting at home working on X report or Y document remotely the same as spending time with your family. They're getting to watch you, they're not getting you. There is a difference.