Has Work-Life Become Work-Work?




  • March 22, 2016

    Work life balance, we’ve been hearing about it for decades. Trends and tips to help us, as individuals, desperately try and achieve some sort of balance between work and life. When you really think about it, it’s quite scary. We are consistently tasked with carving out more time from work to actually enjoy our lives.


    Sadly recent trends are not in our favor. According to a recent infographic from HubSpot, nearly 2 in 3 managers expect their employees to be reachable outside of the office on their personal time. And, we’re working more. A 2014 Gallup poll notes that 50% of salaried, full-time employees are now working over 50 hours per week, with half of those at 60 hours plus per week.


    One of the biggest contributors to this disturbing trend is definitely technology. While we’ve grown accustomed to a state of 24/7/365 connectivity, for many of us, that also means we’re connected to our work life nearly 100% of the time. And, I don’t blame the employers, although most certainly there are expectations, especially as you rise through the ranks of management and leadership. I’m convinced that part of it is driven from what I call the ‘new workplace norm’ – days filled with incessant meetings and countless emails. As companies have added managerial levels, stakeholders increase and decision-making is more by committee than by designated responsibility. In the end, when is the work getting done? There’s little time during the workday so the only time to actually do work is off hours, weekends, and in between meetings and emails.


    As a full-time, salaried employee, personally I sometimes feel more like an emergency room doctor than a marketing executive. Of course, my situation may be exacerbated by the fact that I live on the East Coast, but my company, and the majority of my team, is LA based, which puts my typical day at an average of 10-12 hours, not including weekends and travel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining as I enjoy my work and career, but how did this happen?


    I reflect to a short-term assignment I did in the late 90s in London, which is where I first recognized a difference between the American workplace and our European counterparts. In London, even working on-site at one of the top investment firms in the world, the majority of the team worked 8 hours a day, took an hour lunch, and truly enjoyed a work-life balance. Even then, when I returned to the U.S., I noticed the immediate difference in my work-life – lacking a balance and feeling that the pace had picked up by at least 30-40%.


    In the end, I am not sure there is much we can really do about it. Meditation, scheduling work time, decompressing – does it really work? To me, the fact is that we, as Americans, live in a Live to Work society as opposed to a Work to Live one.

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