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: 433

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on May 17, 2011 at 6:57pm
What I neglected to say earlier is that as long as I am working,  my life is in balance.  My family is used to me making calls at all hours of the day, night and weekend.   I have introduced candidates to clients from Venice, Prague and Singapore.  I have negotiated and made placements while in Istanbul, Oaxaca, Bali and Santorini.   The wonderful part of recruiting is that as long as I have a phone I can work.  I don't mind and my family doesn't mind. In fact they understand that my calls pay for our vacations and our lifestyle.  Any recruiter who only wants to work 9-5 is doomed to failure.  My average week is way, way beyond 60 hours, but I don't keep count.  It keeps me sane.  Besides, recruiting is fun.
Comment by Michael Webb on May 17, 2011 at 7:07pm


My dearest, lovely naïve Sandra, you got it all wrong from the very beginning – balance does mean equal. Balance means “getting the right balance” ie., for every hour I work I want 3 hours of quality ME time. That’s BALANCE.

In the scenario you outline, you respondent has nil ME time.
No time for a half day at the day spa/solarium, no time to sit reflectively and watch the sunset, no time to meditate on the mountain side, her work/life balance is non-existent.
In fact I’m not sure she even understands what work/life balance is!
As my dear, dear friend from Texas would say “she is unclear on the concept”!  
All that stuff with the kids, volunteer work etc., is just that……. WORK.


Comment by Paul Alfred on May 17, 2011 at 8:00pm
@Paul you don't have to put in 60 hours a week  to have a successful business in Recruiting.  I think Americans are over worked...  Take a chapter from the Europeans .. 2 hour nap in the day.  Germans still make the best cars in the World - 6 week vacation.   Let's not forget the "Work Smart" variable in the Success equation.
Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on May 17, 2011 at 8:25pm
@Paul  I fully agree; working smart is imperative.  However,  I find that in recruiting the longer I work the more I get done.  I love what I do.  I fully agree with the Europeans.  I take a lot of vacation, but I am always close to my computer and never without a phone.  Even went to the Galapagos Islands where there is no cell service so I leased a sat phone.  Recruiting for me is a joyous thing.  That is why we are absolutely the top recruiters in the advertising field.
Comment by Vanessa on May 17, 2011 at 8:54pm
Im Geny Y and I work more than 40 hours per week. As a third party recruiter - you work to your clients schedule which means that you may work outside of it, I don't think this has much to do with the Generation rather people's work ethic.  I agree with Sandra! In my opinion and experience people who want work-life balance maybe need some help with time management. There is plenty of time to what you want in life you just have to go and make it happen. I love "you can sleep when you are dead"
Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 17, 2011 at 9:10pm
@robertS. I've never thought it was appropriate to be a cougar but if Andrew also likes to dust, vacuum and go to the cleaners I would certainly consider adopting him :)

@Ravi, a great truth is often stated in a very few words. The comments here lend proof to your truth.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 17, 2011 at 9:30pm
@Gordon, you know the same people I know. I can put in those outrageous hours like I did when I was 25. The difference is my back hurts for a week the week after I do it. The folks I know who are in top positions run hard and fast. My dentist of over 50 years and I had a discussion last week. He said he could retire anytime he wanted to. Course he might starve in the dark. In the last few years there are a lot of people who would be thrilled to be able to work 100 hours a week.

@Paul G & Sylvia, great points made in different words People who love what they do seem to blend it all together. If they aren't doing it they are thinking about it. Everybody I meet is either a candidate or a potential client except my lawyer. I wouldn't place her with anybody and she eats legal assistants for breakfast. What makes her a great lawyer makes her a shitty human being
Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 17, 2011 at 10:04pm
@Michael W thank you so much. I have waited all my life for somebody to tell me I am a loverly, naive, hothouse flower. One thing though, my respondent was not a she it were a he. That notwithstanding I agree with you about me time. You are more than correct about all that kid stuff. If the young and the restless had any idea of the work involved in civilizing the young animals of the species they would find out what causes them and quit spewing little frogs without hair , teeth and eyebrows then spending the next 25 years wondering where they went wrong. I had kids because I hate to take out the trash and I plan to live long enough to have one of those five generation pictures. We have one of those but my great grandmother looks like sha had been dead for a month so I'm taking good care of myself.

Your Texas friend went to the charm school all us steel magnolias go to (I flunked out) did she used to say, (gawd,she's so dumb her head must be full owl poop?).

@Vanessa you get it, girlfriend. You can't believe how many old farts haven't figured out they have to be a part of making it happen and there are two parts to work. Making it happen when the window of opportunity opens then thinking about how to make it happen tomorrow and watching the window for the next time it opens. I totally agree that it has nothing to do with age except that the GenY's like you who get it early have lots more time to pile up clamshells and the time to enjoy playing with their shells.

@paulA, Europeans fascinate me. I always thought I wanted a passionate Spainard but with my luck I would end up with a freaking illegal alien from Mexico. That happens when you have a Genie with Alzheimers.
Comment by Torquil Thomson on May 18, 2011 at 7:33am

Great post and interesting discussion. Obviously when balancing hours, equal does not necessarily mean the same: a working hour does not weigh the same as a sleeping hour, nevermind a hour spent relaxing. So we are not comparing apples with apples.

Work life balance for me, means that you work as hard as you can to make sure that you have enough time in your life to do the things that are really important to you.

Also, I do not think that working less hours means working less.

Comment by Torquil Thomson on May 18, 2011 at 8:09am

As a European living and working in Spain, I have to say that we do not get a 2 hour nap in the middle of the day. LOL! That would be great! And I am sure that not too long ago people really did go for a wee siesta, but not today, not in Barcelona.


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