I keep hearing a cry for “work-life balance”. Now I think that is a bizarre term so I started asking people what they meant by “work-life balance.” Here is one of the responses I got.

“I want to spend more time with my family”.

My question: “Are your kids in school, does your spouse work”

“Sure, kids have to go to school, we both work to be able to afford the house , the boat, take vacations, pay for after school activities for the kids like little league, art lessons, karate lessons, piano lessons and summer camps.” “We do volunteer work at the hospital, show dogs , hunt , ski, run marathons, visit friends, go out to dinner with our parents, have holiday parties, work with the PTA and of course are active in our church.

Me: Let me understand here, sounds like you and your family have a pretty busy schedule, with all those lessons and activities I bet your kids don’t get home until just in time for dinner. Weekends must be pretty full too, right? Sounds like everybody is going lots of different directions. Not a lot of time to spend together with all that stuff. Ever travel for business or job related requirements?

“Oh, no my job doesn’t require travel I wouldn’t take a job that required much travel.”

Me: Do you work overtime or on the weekends?

“Oh, no, I wouldn’t take a job that required overtime or weekend work, we have too many things that we do as a family to get into a situation like that.” “I play golf, wife plays tennis at the club, kids are all over the place.

Me: How many hours a week do you work?

“40 hours”

Me: Know how many hours there are in a week”


Me: 7 days in a week, 24 hours in a day, that’s 168 hours in a week, ok. If you work 40 hours that leaves 128, ok. If you sleep 8 hours a day that’s 56 hours a week so that leaves 72 hours that you are not working and not asleep right? So that means that you are asleep more hours than you work and you have almost twice as many hours with your family as you work, right? So tell me what needs to happen to give you more work-life balance?

“Friday’s off would be great”.

Me: Sounds good, then you would work 36 hours have 80 hours that you were not asleep to spend with your family, right? Do you know what the word balance means?

“That means things are equal.”

Me: That’s what I always thought too. If you work fewer hours than you sleep and you have almost twice as much time with your family as you work, is that equal?

“Of course not, but that’s not what I mean.” “I mean I would like to be able to take longer weekends with my family or spend more time with hobbies and activities”.

Me: Ok, I get it, more focus on the things you like to do. That makes sense. Would you take a pay cut in order to have a four day work week?

“Of course not, then I couldn’t afford to do what I want to do. Besides that I really need a raise this year , we have a lot of things going on with the kids and we sort of overextended ourselves with credit cards and the size house we bought.”

Me: I sure understand that but let me get this straight. You want to work fewer hours than you sleep, work less than half the time you spend with your family and you want a raise this year for doing that. Is that what you mean by work-life balance?

“That’s it.”. .

Me: I am going to have to go back and take a look at the definition of the word balance and equal again. I am having a real hard time with this work-life balance concept stuff.
Sounds like to me there is something sort of out of balance here but I think work may be getting the short end of the stick. Uh , by the way , a couple of thoughts here.

1. Don’t ever consider a career as a third party recruiter.

2. A lot of people have discovered in the last few years that without work there is not much to life and nothing to balance the bills. That might be the new work/life balance. Maybe that is my new definition of work-life balance. Enough work to balance the bills and sustain life.

So tell me my friends, what is “Work-Life Balance? What is it that you want and what are you willing to give up to get it?

Me, I’m going back to work I like the balance in that checkbook to have lots of zeros after it and all of them black. I’ll sleep when I’m dead and somebody has to pay for all this “life” that is going on around me..

Views: 461

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on May 17, 2011 at 11:11am
Love this.  I may quote you on my blog, if that is ok.  I don't know any real executive who doesn't take work home or make calls or emails during the weekend.  Bless those who have the kind of work/life balance your person wants.  Every Sunday I think to myself, I can't wait to get back to work.  I cannot imagine retirement.  How many times a week can one play golf.  The busier I am at work the happier my home life.
Comment by Robert W Sutherland on May 17, 2011 at 11:13am

Jason,  maybe it's just a perception thing.  Sandra hits one of the many marks in dealing with direct reports though.  I've heard it myself time and time again.

If someone came to me and said they could get more quality work done in less time, I'd say "go for it" (and take that extra day off, you've earned it).  The challenge with so many folks these days is they just want more free time and the same or increasing compensation for it.  Somewhere, someone actually has to do something productive to keep the wheels rolling.

Comment by Denise Tinsley on May 17, 2011 at 11:29am
I am 46 and work life balance does not mean less hours working. It just means a flexible schedule and the ability to work remotely when it makes sense.  I am a programmer. I feel that if I deploy code over the weekend then it should be ok for me to take off on Monday as long as I am available by phone, email if needed.  I should not have to take off work to go to a medical appointment, just adjust my schedule and get both work and the personal appointment taken care of.
Comment by Robert W Sutherland on May 17, 2011 at 11:30am
I guess my sons would consider me "older", but witnessed me run global sales and marketing groups several high tech companies from the sidelines of soccer fields, airplanes, and foreign countries for most of my career.  24/7 even.  I must have been ahead of my time.  Go figure?!  Most recruiters that I know, know no time zone.  All in good fun.
Comment by Ben Hodge on May 17, 2011 at 11:43am
I think there would be a better correaltion if commute times, meal times, and personal care times were factored in.  Sleep: 56 hours per week.  Work plus commute: 40 + 10 (1 hour each way for argument sake) - 50. Meals plus hygene (gotta eat and clean yourself): 3 hours/day - 21.  That leaves 41 hours of life/family time.  To me this evens things out a bit, however, I'm all for a hard/honest days work so that we get to enjoy family time.  If the work/life balance along with most anything in life were looked at from a quality versus quantity standpoint we'd all get more out of life.
Comment by Mike Harrahy on May 17, 2011 at 11:44am

Great post. Thanks for the reminder that not everyone thinks like a recruiter... Speaking of balance....

Posted by Sandra McCartt on May 17, 2011 at 1:16am  hmmmmm :-)
Comment by Suresh on May 17, 2011 at 11:45am
What I found is when you do something that you love, it doesn't feel like work. To me thats the best Work-Life balance.
Comment by Cindy J. Biter on May 17, 2011 at 11:54am

I'm with you, Sandra!  I love my job as a third-party recruiter.  My work-life balance means that I can go out of town when I want to, but still need to take my lap-top with me so I can work "on the road".  I took a three-week vacation with my family last year and did a four-state tour.  I made three placements while I was out of town.  I like my bank account to have lots of zeros behind it too! 


Work/ Life balance means that I can go see my 89-year old mother in the nursing home for an hour or two in the afternoon.  But in the evening, I conduct phone interviews and search resumes in the Internet at 2:00 a.m. 


I think that many people think they work too much. (Mostly those born after 1980…) They want that four-day week.  They think they're being cheated by "the man".  God forbid they’re asked to come in on a Saturday to finish a project or presentation.  I tell my candidates (most of them Accounting/ Finance) “don’t take this job if you don’t want to work. You’ll be expected to be productive at this company.”    


Paul, you make a very good point that I totally agree with.  The busier you are at work, the happier you are at home.  The fatter my bank account gets, the more cool vacations we can take and the more toys we can buy. 


And Jason, I guess since I'm over forty, I would be considered part of the "older generation".  Don't scoff too much, because one morning you'll wake up (and it will be a rude awakening, my dear...) and the bag boy at the grocery store will call you "sir" and the new grads will look at you as that "an older gentleman..."  And BTW, it’s not just the Gen-Y’ers that are technically savvy.   



Comment by Andrew Hally on May 17, 2011 at 12:18pm

There's an interesting TED talk video on work-life balance. Play it in the background while doing the dishes or folding laundry.


Comment by Beth on May 17, 2011 at 12:23pm

Another great post, Sandra.  I myself have fallen victim to wanting a work-life imbalance at times...All life, no work!  LOL  My company is old-school, like you aren't in your desk, you must be slacking.  I just ignore that mentality, especially as the recruiter, and guess, what?  I still love my job! 


I think it comes down to attitude.  I work extra some weekends and evenings, but skip out early when the weather is nice on a Friday.  That's my kind of balance!  :)


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