Balancing Work & Life
Right at the outset we'll note that it is Saturday and we are in the office writing this piece. That should give you a clue that we haven't achieved what most people might call a "healthy work-life balance." But after more than 25 years in the profession our wife has come to reluctantly accept our work/home habits…to a degree.
To further exacerbate the situation, we'll note that we just returned from a 3-day holiday in Mexico. On the flight down we remarked to her that it was the first time we had turned our cellphone off since upgrading three months earlier. We were also delighted when we got to the home we had rented to find that the owner really did have DSL connectivity.
While we haven't quite mastered the balancing act, it is better. There are those to disagree but in our estimation the Internet, WiFi and mobile phone technology has helped. While we don't recommend our solution for everyone it works for us.
The cold hard fact is that in today's environment though there is constant pressure to do more and with fewer people. Whether it is stated, implied or self-inflicted people in our industry are continually monitoring and handling queries, issues and challenges not just 2-3 time zones away but half way around the globe. We have deadlines, demands and issues that are out of our control and have to be addressed…now!
The result is long hours and in many instances missed weekends and missed holidays. If it is any consolation, we are not alone!
After reviewing survey results from Poynter Institute, Gallup and Monster.com, it is obvious becoming an issue that is facing people in every field journalists as well as companies, non-profits and government.
The issues that were raised in all of these surveys were remarkably similar
- most people (over 60 percent) worked more than 40 hours a week
- nearly half passed up their vacation from last year
- approximately 70 percent of the organizations had staff cuts in the last two years
- about half of those surveyed were considering a job/career change
It has been our experience that most of the pressure and stress is self-inflicted.
Staff reductions have produced mixed emotions and pressures for people
- depression because we all know a number of people whose talents were no longer required by the organization
- a combination of relief and guilt that you had escaped unscathed
- a real or implied implication that you were expected to assume more of the workload caused by the workforce reduction
These issues have to be addressed in a healthy, personal manner.
Fortunately, part of the solution can be found with today's always-on technologies. Working no longer means that you have to be in your physical workspace 10-12 hours a day. The technologies have given us the ability to shape and define our own version of balance.
On our Mexico holiday we handled three calls from the media and three from clients. Early each morning and before going to bed each evening we spent an hour on our computer handling email. The rest of the time we enjoyed the sights and downtime.
Conversely when the need has arisen we've reached clients at basketball games, on the golf course and at their youngsters' soccer practice.
Do these examples represent a healthy work-life balance? Possibly.
It is healthy if you have the temperament and personality to know your limits. It is healthy if you have a partner who knows how you tick. It isn't healthy when the work adversely affects your mental or physical health or your personal relationships.
When the workload affects your mental health, it is time to step back and assess your job, career direction and personal goals. If necessary, it will even require third-party assistance. When it affects your physical health it is time to realign your diet, sleep and exercise. If work is creating barriers to personal relationships it is time to sideline yourself and develop a new perspective on what is most important…to you!