Your Life – Your Balance
Ever since I started working I have always heard the concept of ‘work life balance’ being bandied around. I never really paid much attention to the notion as I beavered away at my 12 hour working days, as was common place in my job as a graduate IT consultant. The thing is, I never minded or mind putting in this time and staying late when work needs to be done. I really enjoy my work and I get great satisfaction out of being part of a team that is working towards a common goal, often in highly pressurised situations. During my time working in a large IT consultancy company, I don’t ever remember anyone explicitly asking me to stay late, but there definitely was a culture that accepted it as the norm and a perception that it was something that needed to be done to get you to the next level, or at a minimum to keep you in the running for the next level.
I am completely comfortable with that level of commitment as it suits me and my way of life and it doesn’t prevent me from having a very active social life outside of work. I meet friends regularly, I play sport regularly, I visit my family regularly, I go on date nights with my husband regularly and I sit on the couch regularly! I have what I would define as a good life balance for me, a balance I defined that suits my lifestyle and my interests.
In June 2014 I left the IT consultancy company that I had grown up in and I set up an IT company called Elm Solutions. As part of the set up myself and my business partner David, had the opportunity to define the Elm strategy and core-values. One of the core values I felt passionate about was the concept of ‘Life Balance’, I want all Elm employees to be aware that we have core working hours of 11 – 4 and the expectation is that everyone will do a 37.5 hour week. How people make up that time across the week is their responsibility and if there is a need to do overtime, outside of these 37.5 hours on occasion to get something over the line, I hope that our employees will want to stay to contribute to this. However, if someone can’t stay I can also understand that. I recognise that the speed and demands of modern life are challenging and it is all a balancing act and for some people work is not the utmost priority or even second or third on the list, and that’s OK!
On the other hand if people can stay a little later and want to stay late to complete out some tasks, this shouldn’t be an issue either. A good friend once relayed a conversation back to me that had taken place between her and a colleague, in relation to me. The colleague mentioned that I would probably get promoted “but sure she lives for work, she spends every hour in here”. I thought this was such an interesting observation because that same colleague had undoubtedly spent the same hours as I had working. What was interesting is that the hours we worked were viewed as such a negative. The thing is, I do love my job and always have and I know that is incomprehensible for some people but I shouldn’t have to apologise for it. I also would not agree with the sentiment that I live for work; I live for a lot of things and work is one part my life balance. We all have an individual definition of life balance, determined by our life situations and the focus factor we give to work will increase and decrease as life requires and demands.
In an article in the Sunday Business section of the Sunday Independent on 18th October Anne Hearty, CEO of Cpl resources commented “this isn’t just work for me, it’s a passion. I see your career right up there with your health, wealth and happiness”. This is exactly how I feel about my work but I can also understand that this is far removed from the reality for some people. This concept of work-life balance being interdependent needs to be broken and we need to look at it in a more holistic fashion for each individual. We get one life, we need to ensure that we are spending it doing what we enjoy and what makes us happy and that we have a life balance that works for us, not what works for anyone else or what society deems as an acceptable balance. Now I’m off to meet some friends for dinner.