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: 427

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 17, 2011 at 12:54pm

Jason, Jason, Jason my sweet boy.  Do you really think 40 hours a week are longer hours?  But let me clarify.  I am not talking here about flexible hours, working mobile or working at home instead of having one's butt in a chair in an office.  I am talking about the ones who want to unplug, disengage, work four days a week and refuse to answer email or calls because they guard their "personal time" like the holy grail..but they want to make as much or more money than people who are available.


Interestingly i am not hearing this stuff from the GenYers.  It seems to be coming from those who have spent 10 to 15 years in the workforce.  The thing i find bizzare is that they want to shut the door to work, disengage but they want to advance money and promotion wise along with folks who are in the game. 


I would have responded sooner but i have been excercising a horse this morning while i was texting times for an interview and trying to email with one hand while hanging on to reins of a horse who thinks it's great sport to see if he can drop ole lead britches in the dirt.


As to the snark about complaining.  Who put the ground glass in your post toasties this morning.  Does your firm make you work 8 to 5.  You should work for me we have no hours we just stay connected where ever we are. :)

Comment by Paul Alfred on May 17, 2011 at 12:59pm
Love your post Sandra ...  Perhaps we need to learn a bit from the Europeans ...  Look I think you put the hard work in when you're young and hopefully if you combined work hard with work smart you can take off most fridays for a 12pm tee off time ...
Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 17, 2011 at 1:32pm

@Paul, i would be thrilled if you quoted me.  I love what i do too.  I'm a lot more fun when i'm working.


@ Robert, Ah yes, the lament of most managers i know.  There are a lot of jobs that do require people to be in the office working with a team.  We can't all work in a bubble in our tree house.  If you have a team of more than five people it sometimes gets to be a full time job to accomodate people taking off to take their dog to the vet, the dentist, the school play.  Then listen to all the bitching from all of them about somebody else's work ethic if they tried to find them and they out of the office.


@Denise, I'm with you.  As a programmer with individual time lines you live in a different world.  Many companies are run by adults who understand what people do so if they hit their deliveries they can and do function like adults.  The problem seems to be explaining that to the folks who aren't very adult and have a hard time hitting their deliveries because they had to be at the fourth grade awards program.


@RobertS, Ah yes, my kids were asked once, "What does your mother do?".  My youngest said, "I don't know exactly but she talks on the phone all the time and tells people what time to go someplace, and she is always asking somebody what time it is in California or Florida."


@Ben, you must be an accountant.  I knew somebody was going to come up with playing with the numbers.  Please remember that most of us don't sleep 8 hours a night.  I function on 4 to 6 but for Jason here...old people don't sleep as much, we are afraid our time is limited and we don't want to miss something.  :)


@Mike H, Thanks, it was for fun.  You caught me.  I am a night person.  If God had meant for me to get up when the sun came up he would not have invented the electric light bulb.  My most productive time is 2:00 PM to 2:00AM.  I keep an ipad or my phone by the bed.  Open one eye at 6:00AM check email, sent emails and go back to sleep until after 9:00.  My clients and candidates think i never sleep.  The joys of technology.  I never pretended to be balanced.


@ Dr. S.  I rode with a world class horse trainer for years who has a masters in Psych.  HIs dad was a neurosurgeon.  I asked him one time how the hell he made up his mind to be horse trainer.  He laughed and said, "My dad knew i was miserable, he poured me a scotch, sat me down and told me to find something i loved to do and figure out a way to get somebody to pay me for it and i would never work another day in my life."


@Cindy, Same book, same page.  I haven't seen 40 in so long that i can't remember what is work and what is life.  There was a time when people told me if i didn't slow down i would never see 40.  I by god showed them didn't i.  Now i can't see it in my rearview mirror.  When i tell someone how old i am they say, "You are not."  Ok, i'm lying but if we don't get you to work you are going to be so depressed you won't be able to get out of bed.  Being productive, feeling like we made a contribution to something is what makes people want to get up in the morning...maybe late morning but those zeros are what pays for things that make life worth it, like being able to donate a grand to the Humane Society.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 17, 2011 at 1:47pm

@Andrew, i will listen.  I hate folding laundry, part of the reason i work is so i can pay somebody else to do the things i hate to do.


@Beth, been there done that.  I worked for a TV station back when tenns balls were square.  It was 8 to 5 even if there was enough ice on the highway that one had to leave home at 5:00 AM and drive with two wheels off the pavement to keep from sliding into a ditch.  I had nightmares about hearing my boss pontificate about "We sell the air around us and if we are not here it won't go on the air".  I wanted him to start gasping for some of that air every time he said it.  Ducking out on Friday is good.  my clients all want to but since they can't they seem to decide to call the headhunter at 4:00 on Friday afternoon.  What the hell, it gives me something to do over the weekend.


@Paul, Thanks but i just have one question.  How come it is i worked hard when i was young and i'm still putting my nose to the grind stone?  Nevermind, i have a favorite poem. 

If you put your nose to the grind stone rough...

And you hold it down there long enough...

These things will there cease to be..

Birds that sing, and a flower and a tree...

These three things will your world compose..

Just you, your stone and your effin' bloody nose!


Get us a T time.  If i start right now i can make it by Friday.

Comment by Andrew Hally on May 17, 2011 at 2:13pm
Laundry folding in the evening for me is somewhat Zen-like when combined with Red Sox on the radio or a TED talk, so lemme know if your laundry person calls in sick and maybe I can help you out!
Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 17, 2011 at 2:41pm
I knew there was something i liked about you marketing types.  I will put you on my list of very important people.  So when somebody asks me who the hell is Andrew Hally?  I can say, "Ah, very important person, he reaches Nirvana folding laundry.  So he is the Laundry folding grasshopper, don't lose that contact if the laundry starts piling up on the couch to the point that it looks like we had a garage sale and nobody came call him. 
Comment by Robert W Sutherland on May 17, 2011 at 4:14pm
I'm waiting for some nice woman to propose to Andrew. LOL.  That's good stuff.
Comment by Ravi Goel on May 17, 2011 at 4:43pm
excellent post.. we all question the work life balance sometime.. it all depends on the individual
Comment by Gordon Basichis on May 17, 2011 at 5:30pm
Not sure how many people are sleeping eight hours a night or working forty hour weeks. Most I know in key executive positions or who have their own businesses usually average around sixty hours a week or so. Some kids, my nephews for example, starting out in banking and finance would often go close to 100 hours a week, but that's for a few year's duration and then it settles into something relatively sane. But, hey, the operative world in today's world and this economy is "working." So in measuring the "life balance," life balances out a lot better when you are working and eating. Recess can wait.
Comment by Sylvia Dahlby on May 17, 2011 at 5:59pm
I prefer the term "work life blend" since that's closer to reality. Work and "life" have never been separate unless you turn into a zombie while you're at work.


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