I am sure that this may have just happened to everyone out there and on a rather regular basis, too! Specially, if you are a blogger! Just as I was putting together a blog post on the topic of the 40-Hour Work Week (- “The Magic of Sustainable Growth”), which I published a couple of days ago I happened to bump into another really interesting and worth while watching video clip that touched quite a bit on the very same topic that I covered on that article: work life balance, although, like I said in the past, I have grown to be more fond of the concept of Work Life Integration, instead. The video itself comes from the Ignite series (Ignite Philly, this time around) and it’s a rather thought-provoking 5 minute-long inspiring speech by Pam Selle that tries to share with each and everyone of us how whenever we reach the tipping point of stating “Get a life!” we may as well need to do so! As we may be missing far too much of what really matters… because of work.
Like I said above, the video is a short, crisp and rather powerful awakening call for all of those knowledge workers out there who may feel that their job is eating up not only all of their work time, but also most of their personal time, along the way, too! Now, I understand the video has got some strong language, but I think Pam gets the point across very nicely and in a tone that while I understand may not be getting through for some folks, I think it’s all just too down to earth, and rather realistic on helping everyone understand where we are and how we may need to keep on challenging a good number of the presumptions that we have always been taking for granted in a business environment when talking about work time AND personal time.
“Go the F*ck Home: Engineering Work/Life Balance” is a rather provocative watch, for sure, but well worth the time to discover the real consequences of working overtime, of giving up your time, just like that!, for free, of constantly being used (and treated!) as an asset, of showing how there are better, smarter ways of getting the job done, of re-focusing on what you would need to do and do it!, in the time that you have been allotted, so that you, too, could get a life. I loved her comment about naming more than two things that we all get to do outside of work and if you can’t name more than two, you have got a problem. Indeed! Too much work time, too little play, personal time! Priceless!
You see? It looks like the best option for all of us is to have an escape plan, something else to do, other than work, to occupy our time during the course of the day, when we are no longer working, and still have the feeling we are achieving something meaningful. And all of this going all the way to the top, including management!, who should be acting as leading examples, in the first place, helping their employees understand that they, too, have got a life and therefore should leave work, and do something else, before they would come to realise that their knowledge workers may be rather unhappy with their overall jobs, just as much as they themselves. When we all know that happy employees are the ones who produce the better outcomes: happy customers. After all, if Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg can do it, why can’t everyone else, right? What’s our excuse?
And if you need an escape plan, how about having a vacation? That would probably help out everyone out there start up with making that separation between work and personal life, right? And stick around with it altogether as well, upon your return. After all, we all know how beneficial, relaxing, chilling, unwinding and healthy it is to take a good long vacation, of, at least, two weeks disconnecting from everything for optimal results (Yes, even my own boss is confirming that!). Even better, we all know and embrace the many other good benefits from having unlimited vacation days, as I have also blogged about in the recent past sharing the experience of the delightful Maggie Fox from Social Media Group So why not do it? No, don’t worry, contrary to what most people would think, knowledge workers, in general, would not slack off. Why? Because they are hard working professionals, remember?, the ones you hired in the first place, the ones who you have trusted all along to do the right thing, i.e. getting their work done. So they are not going to abuse it. All the other way around! They are going to become even more productive and effective at what they do and work harder, because they are the first interested parties in keeping things that way!
Ohhh, that you cannot take vacation, because you can’t afford it? Even your work project won’t allow it? Well, let’s take it into the next level… How about *not* having any vacation, nor off sick time altogether? Let’s go to the other extreme. Let’s wipe out the entire concept of taking a vacation from the workplace and instead, like my good friend Kevin Jones blogged about just recently, let’s introduce this rather fascinating and refreshing new policy: “Need it, Take it“, which goes pretty much as follows:
“If you need time off, take it. If you are sick, stay home. Just continue to do amazing work“
Yes, I know, if you have been reading this far you are probably thinking I am just crazy. But why not? Why couldn’t we just live without vacation days and, instead, shift gears ourselves and change mindsets thinking that you may not need to have a fixed vacation period eventually, but, maybe what you need is just taking the time off, when you need it, for the time you consider responsibly enough to take off and just go ahead and do it! Knowing that it will happen when you know it will have the least impact on the business. Your business.
Smart companies like Evernote are already doing it and proving that it can be done and I guess at this point in time you may be wondering what you would need to do in order to make it happen for yourself, right? Well, something relatively simple: just ask! You know, like I have always been telling people, if you don’t ask, you already got the “No!” for an answer; if you do ask and get a “No!” for an answer, that’s just totally fine, remember you already had it. But if you get a “Yes!” for an answer you may find yourself you are right on track and you got it! A win-win situation for everyone, because when you get that “Yes!” you would probably be *the* most interested party in keeping things going that way. And I can’t blame you. I would do the very exact same as you would be doing. In fact, I have already been doing it myself for the last 8 years working AND living in Gran Canaria. Remember, for many years I didn’t ask, so I had a “No!” already. But then, one day, I eventually asked, took the risk, a good chance that things could work out, and, I got it! I got the “Yes!” and two weeks later I moved permanently to Gran Canaria where I have been living and working ever since. And still having a blast!
But if you don’t ask, if you don’t provoke that conversation to take place, it will never happen. So you are back to square one. And I am not sure what you would think, but I do believe it’s worth while taking the risk of asking away (your immediate management or whoever else), because in a way you are also helping your management line to understand how they need to shift gears themselves and instead of measuring your performance by the amount of hours and days that you work, they would probably be much better off measuring your overall outcomes, your deliverables, your output, and understand fully how, in a good number of times, you would be providing that extra level of top quality value by taking time off to focus on what you need to focus on: yourself. Re-energise, charge your batteries and come back for more!
After all, it’s a beautiful, wonderful world out there and every extra hour that we spend doing overtime or not having that time off for ourselves to do other things as part of that personal work life integration strategy you should all start working your way through on it, you are losing out. And you are losing big. As big and mind-blowing as this:
Don’t you think it’s worth while asking after all? Don’t you think it’s a good time now to take your life back and instead of talking about work life integration you start living more that life work integration for yourself and for what really matters?
2 thoughts on “Engineering Life Work Integration”
The David Attenborough clip always brings a huge smile to my face – and how right you are to say that getting the life work integration/balance (whatever you like to call it) right is really what matters. But is it really that simple “just ask”?
Having read the article on “unlimited vacation days” that you linked to and the comments below that article about the reality of unlimited days off (i.e you have to reach your quota of 2000 hours per year first – or else….) paints an interesting but quite different picture. In times of austerity and economic difficulties this is further compounded by the need of commercial organisations to rise out of the mire (if they were stuck in it!) or just stay above it!
From what I understand we are lucky in the Uk in that annual holiday allowances are generally very generous compared to the US (4-5 weeks/annum as opposed to 2) and these weeks off were fought for in past decades by workers you did “ask” and strove to achieve for the benefit of others both then and for future generations. Those entitlements are now steeped in employment legislation as a minimum guide.
Most corporate organisations still use those same allowances and hours work per week. What has changed is the mind set of the knowledge workers and the view that working as many hours as you can to the sacrifice of all else is better for them and better for their employers – which as you rightly point out is not good for anyone!
So assuming we do not need to ask for those weeks off we are already entitled to – what needs to be asked for increasingly is “flexibility” on “where” and “how” one can work best and “how can one get more time off if needed at any given time”? A good employer should be able to meet all those needs and no-one (as you say) should ever be afraid to ask!