Why are so many feeling that our Work-Life Balance is out of whack? In this series, I will explore four categories of issues that contribute to the feeling (and actuality):
I started my first real job in 1969. That means that my working life has now spanned 40 years. That 40 years has roughly been distributed with 10 years in the engineering/construction business, 10 years in the software industry, and the last 20 years as a consultant to a whole range of industries including pharmaceutical, auto, food, high-tech and others. And I must admit that I don’t see people working any harder or longer hours today than I have at any time over the last 40 years. So why is there so much talk about the lack of Work-Life-Balance?
In the 70’s we communicated by phone or fax. Think about a vacation in Hawaii when the only mode of communication was phone or fax. Not much communication happened with the east coast in particular. It was a real vacation.
I carried my first Compaq “luggable” computer in 1983 (28 pounds). I used email for the first time in 1985. I still remember the day I sent an email to a client in Scotland and he responded within the hour… from Japan! Astounding!
The internet? That didn’t really happen until the mid 1990’s.
I bought one of the very first Blackberry’s in 1999 when they had been on the market for only a few months. It took 5 years for them to sell their millionth Blackberry. Think about that, it was only five years ago that there were a million Blackberrys and virtually no other smart phones. Today, iPhone alone sells nearly 5 million a quarter. And don’t get me started about Facebook and Twitter.
We never get away from it. 24/7 we’re connected. Maybe it’s because I spent much of my career without all of this modern connectedness that I’m a little better at managing it rather than it managing me (my wife will laugh at that statement). But, different than many of my younger colleagues, I believe it is ok to shut it off, not answer that phone, don’t respond instantly to that incoming message. I believe it’s because we don’t shut off this connectedness in the evening when we should be focused on family, or weekends when we should be focused on R&R and getting that job-list done or on vacation when we should be re-creating that our work-life balance seems out of whack.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are many of you out there working long and hard through difficult times. But this has been going on forever. The difference today is that we never get away from it. Not for a minute, not for a day, and certainly not for a week or more.
Think about it and let me know what you think or what your experiences have been.
I’m going to follow with a few more blogs about Work-Life-Balance. Besides this 24/7 connectedness, I see a few other issues that seem to impact our sense of balance.