Finding balance in a chaotic world

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Balance at the Office

PlannerLast night a friend of mine and I were doing our thrice-weekly run. Let me pause a moment by saying it is freaking hot here and by the time we are done running, I look like I’ve been swimming. Anyway, we were talking about the various things going on at our respective jobs. Nothing too major, just dealing with the normal office stuff. During the discussion I went off on a rant about not wanting the ability to access my office computer from home because that sets up the expectation that I would be available to work at any time. I’m sure my friend was smiling and nodding along with me so I wouldn’t pop a blood vessel in my head, but I think it is still a valid point. The problem is that in order to have a good chance for a promotion it is advantageous to work a lot. You have to love the modern office.

 

First, let me clarify my stand. I’m a salaried, management-level employee. I have no problems occasionally working extra hours to finish a project or when something happens. I consistently deliver high quality work, based on reviews, and I generally enjoy the work I do. However, my job is my job and my home life is my home life. If I let the job interfere with my home life beyond a reasonable amount, it becomes very difficult to pull back without repercussions. Basically, it becomes expected and the next thing I know, I’m logging in an hour or two each night “just to clean things up.” I have a very strong belief that if someone must work 50 or 60 hours a week to complete their job, then additional resources need to be assigned to that job. It is unreasonable for a company to expect that level of work on an ongoing basis. Of course, I understand the company’s position as well. They are getting more work for the same amount of money so that is in their interest.

 

In a typical 24-hour day, you ideally spend 8 hours working, 8 hours personal time, and 8 hours sleeping. Of course work actually takes 9 hours, plus the commute time, so personal time and sleeping need to lose an hour or two to make up the difference. No big deal because we have weekends to restore the balance. But when 9 hours of work becomes 10 or 12 or even 14, then there is a significant balance issue.

 

Of course the main reason to work all those hours is to earn more money. Someone who is always at the office is much visible than someone who is there for 8 hours and then leaves. Still that person who is there 8 hours may be much more efficient and have a higher productivity rate than the one there 10 hours. Unfortunately, many jobs can’t be measured in that method and thus the person there 10 hours is looked upon more favorably than the person there 8 hours. Reviews come around and bonuses and raises can be unfairly distributed in that manner. Lucky for me, I work in the airline industry so raises and bonuses are mythical creatures to me.

 

So what can you do? Obviously you don’t want to spend all your time at the office, but at the same time, you want to be a valuable employee. Your primary goal is to provide excellent productivity when you are at the office. Again, I’m not talking about slacking off at the office, I’m talking about giving a fair amount to your employer and expecting a fair amount back. The next thing is to make sure your manager understands your position. Occasional extra work is fine, but if it is ongoing then additional compensation or procedure modification needs to take place. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but you also should not feel ashamed of your position. In the long run, a balanced employee is a better one. Those that work constantly end up burning out at some point. If your company cannot agree with your viewpoint, it may be time to look for one that does. Be a person of action.

 

Ultimately for me I came to the realization that I receive the most sense of personal identity by my activities outside of the office. What I mean by that is many men define themselves by what they do. I realized that I define myself by other things (see Who are you) and my career is there to support my lifestyle but it is not who I am. I’m a good worker and the company definitely benefits from my skills and training, but at the end of the day I leave the office at the office. Once I had that epiphany, I was able to relax more at work and bring my life into better balance.

 

So the question to you is does your work life interfere with your balance? Are there unreasonable demands on your time? If so, it is time to make some needed adjustments.