Thursday, March 25, 2010

Finding a Healthy Family-Work Ballance

We have been talking about starting a family. So, we've been thinking a lot about trying to find a healthy balance between work and family. But there seems to be an unwritten rule that says people in helping professions should work 50 hours each week. We're also "supposed to" move on to bigger and better positions. It's kinda like the corporate world where people work long hours when they're young in order to climb the corporate ladder. But at what cost?

The math is interesting. Working 50 hours a week means putting in an extra day (1.25 days) each week, an extra month (1.15 months) each year, and an extra year (11.54 months) each decade. The cost of working 50 hours per week adds up quickly. And this is time away from family, friends, hobbies, housework, childcare etc.

We want it "all." But do we really want to work that much? According to recent statistics, 74% of people want to spend more time with their kids and 50% would take a pay cut in exchange for more time off. People seem to be bucking the over-working trend. We want a "new all." An "all" that includes time to be with family - and seeing kids' basketball games. In short, people want balance. Many people are finding out that productivity and job satisfaction actually increase when people have a better work-family balance in their life.

Working less is better. Yup, it's true. Leaving the office early, coming into the office late, and assertively establishing personal boundaries have all proven to increase productivity at work. It's the old 80-20 Rule. Most honest supervisors will admit that 80% of quality productivity comes from 20% of time spent at work. It's simple. We work such long hours that we need to take little breaks throughout the day. Some of the day is just wasted away. But it doesn't have to be that way. What if instead of checking Facebook for the fifth time (or fiftieth time) in a day, we just worked harder and left the office earlier? There's no reason to work over 5 days and 40 hours a week. We just need to use our time efficiently and effectively. We can all probably do the same amount of work in 40 hours that we can in 50. Working less means we have more time for family, hobbies, vacations, etc. Having time to hang out means we're happier. And happy people are more productive workers. So, be proud to work less!

Redefining success is important. We don't have to strive for the top positions in our fields. Who needs the extra stress and responsibility? Obviously, if you're anything like us, you want to be successful. But what if we define success on our own terms? Success can mean making sure that we have the time to build our kids a treehouse, see a play with our loved one, and maybe even do something fun for ourselves. Success can mean turning down promotions in order to ensure a healthy work-family balance. Success can mean downshifting our career so we don't have to work 50 hours a week. Success can mean setting and accomplishing our own goals in life.

Calendars are a moral document. That's what Jim Wallis said recently. And that seems right. Our schedules tell us what and who we value enough to schedule into our lives. Is our boss more valued than our kids? Is working that extra day a week more important than spending the day on the beach with our spouse/partner? Is working late valued more than making it to the basketball game? Those darn schedules are tricky things. A dramatic example of this is in the movie Click, where Adam Sandler plays a character that wastes his life working while ignoring his family. Thankfully he gets a second chance. And so do we. Every day. Our challenge is to make sure that our schedules match our priorities. And to make sure we're living the kind of live we want to live.

Check out the following links for more info on redefining success, working less, and playing more. Or just ignore these links and take your family to the park!

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