Work-life balance

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FastCompany Read this article at FastCompany pointed to by Steve Maine and maybe I’m lazy, but I totally disagree.

The article makes the point that the concept of “work-life balance” is a pipe dream. What the article fails to mention are the associated health problems for many workaholics. For programmers in particular, ailments such as RSI are common (though many programmers such as myself count programming as a hobby as well which would also contribute).

The article briefly dismisses the European notion of “Working To Live”. I think in doing so, it fails to address the societal and cultural issues that often drive a work-life imbalance. How successful is this notion of succeeding at all costs as a source of fulfillment? The article mentions that imbalance is required to gain real productivity, but is that the measure of one’s success?

It’s well documented that Americans tend to spend their hard earned money on things and possesions while Europeans spend more on vacations and events. Should work be the primary defining character trait of a person? In the U.S., the first question in any social setting is “What do you do?”. In many European countries, it’s a social gaffe to ask that of a stranger. Why not ask, “What do you like to do?”.

It’s my contention that this single minded focus on materialism (and I’m not totally against materialism as I LOVE my iPod) is the driving force behind working too much. If one were to step back and look at what really gives one fulfillment, I think priorities will often be rearranged. Not that I’m against working hard. I love to write code and read books about coding and software management in my spare time. However, I also realize the value of defining myself along other interests as well. I realize the value of maintaining my health via excercise and of my mental health through maintaining meaningful relationships with friends and family.

It reminds me of something I’ve heard somewhere or other. How often do you hear people in the twilight of their lives or on their death beds reflect on the wonderful time they spent at the office?

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6 responses

  1. Avatar for The man of leisure
    The man of leisure October 17th, 2004

    Anyone who thinks a work life balance is a pipe-dream is frankly working too much and does not know what he or she is missing!

  2. Avatar for haacked@yahoo.com (Haacked)
    haacked@yahoo.com (Haacked) October 17th, 2004

    Well it is true that some people really enjoy the work they do. The work they do is what they'd do for fun.



    Of course I'm in the camp that one should have more than one interest. Like you Mr. Man Of Leisure. I'll call you later.

  3. Avatar for Cracked
    Cracked October 17th, 2004

    In an outsourced environment.... it really is a pipe dream. One does realise what one is missing, but the alternative might be a missing job. IMHO it is tougher when you are in an outsourced environment. A 60 Hour week might be a nice place to begin getting some balance..

  4. Avatar for The man of leisure
    The man of leisure October 18th, 2004

    The man of leisure is happy that legal work is not yet getting outsourced. I hope that Indians don't start taking the bar exam en masse.

  5. Avatar for The man of leisure
    The man of leisure October 18th, 2004

    The man of leisure is happy that legal work is not yet getting outsourced. I hope that Indians don't start taking the bar exam en masse.

  6. Avatar for jenny ward
    jenny ward May 8th, 2006

    thank you....
    i am asked to speak about work life balance quite often..and found what you wrote refreshing and awesome. thanks for getting it...
    :)