David Watson has a collection of writings, "Lessons Learned for my sons," originally published via LinkedIn. Work-Life Balance is lesson #1.
This topic seems especially ironic to me right now as I’m working on my vacation right now. My sons have seen me working on vacations like this over the years. Just this week alone, I took a phone call in the middle of Priest Lake from our boat, managed a conference call while driving back from excellent family viewing of the eclipse on Monday and have been up early daily to keep up with work issues from our lodge (while my family is asleep).
What I don’t believe my sons see is how supportive my work environment is with the work-life balance. I’ve gone to work late in the morning to have breakfast with my family after a long trip and left work early in the afternoon to attend kids’ games, school events or board meetings. I can break away during the day for a doctor appointment or easily take a few days off (next week) to travel to a university visit with my son.
More than anything, the idea about having the “right” work-life balance is very personal. And it varies by individual, the time period in your life, work responsibilities, family obligations and more. As you figure out your own work-life balance, here are some thoughts to share:
My view is that it all starts with understanding the guidelines set forth by your current employer based upon your role at work. How much of your work effort can be completed on your own versus collaborating with others? What time constraints exist for you to be in your office, working with clients or engaging with other parties related to your employment? What expectations does your boss have in terms of working 8am-5pm versus some other arrangement? And how is your contribution measured - in terms of billable hours or tasks completed or goals achieved or something else? Lastly, are there any specific work-life policies in place?
Individual work and trade-offs:
There are many examples of individual time – tracking expenses or completing other administrative work, catching up on important reading materials, documenting important meetings/engagements, following up with emails or phone calls, etc. One of my favorite trade-offs is meeting a friend for lunch for an hour during the week – knowing that I’ll spend that hour on administrative work some evening while the kids are doing homework. Can you make a similar trade-off? And do you want to?
Time period in your life:
We have a few employees in our office who are just starting their family. Having kids means you’ll likely experience sleepless nights, doctor visits during the week, teacher meetings at school, sports/arts/music practices and much more. Work with your boss to figure out where your employer will allow you to be flexible based upon where you are in your life. Whether you have kids or not, are in a relationship or not, there will ALWAYS be some type of demand placed upon your time that conflicts with work depending upon where you are in your own life. For me, I’m planning on college visits this fall and being part of the board for my sons’ high school lacrosse club. And that will all change next year…and year after year. Your work-life balance will vary through the course of your lifetime.
You also need to understand yourself. I’m more inclined to mix in a bit of work with pleasure. When my family was in Kenya for a two-week safari, I got on several conference calls via Skype for work updates. It was less stressful for me staying a bit connected on my own personal time rather than trying to prepare for weeks in order to be fully disconnected for two weeks. However, other folks would prefer to get totally ready for being gone and then get 100% disconnected. Given input from your family/friends, figure out what balance works for you now and adjust as needed in the future.
40 hour work week?
When I started my career, the “typical” work week was 8am-5pm with an hour for lunch – five days per week (that’s 40 hours per week if you don’t want to do the math!). I’ve had periods in my life where I’ve worked 70-80 hours per week with international travel and other periods of my life where I barely made 40 hours per week because I wanted to be home more often. You need to figure out the balance of investing more time in your work to progress your career more rapidly against the time you’d otherwise spend in your personal life. And know your work hours/week balance will vary over time.
One of my colleagues recently announced her retirement. I’m excited for her. She’s worked very hard and been extremely successful in her career and will thoroughly enjoy retirement. I have my own plans for retirement and you should consider yours as part of your work-life balance. Unless you are financially independent, you probably need to work in order to retire. Your work-life balance will vary significantly if you want to retire before age 40 versus waiting until 65 or later.
OK – back to the life part of my own balance…those boys will be ready for more fun soon. And I’m ready as well.
David Watson has a collection of writings, “Lessons Learned for my sons,” originally published via LinkedIn. Work-Life Balance is lesson #1.