Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What does it mean to have “work/life balance”?


What’s your definition of “work/life balance”?

To me, work/life balance means that I have the flexibility to tend to the needs of family when the need arises, and otherwise work when and where I am able.
  • No school bus this morning? I’ll get to the office at 9 am instead of 7:15.
  • Doctor’s appointment? No worries. I’ll leave the office at 3 and finish up what needs to be done tonight.
  • Bad weather? It’s not productive to waste two hours in traffic. I’ll work from home.
  • Early evening gig for the kids? I’ll pick them up from school.

In my world, and in my life, balance = flexibility. It also means that I work 24/7, or at least make myself accessible 24/7, because I’m not always behind my desk in my office.

Your definition of balance may differ. It may mean remote work, or a flex schedule, or paid time off, or part-time status, or working four tens instead of five eights, or leaving your work at work and having nights and weekends completely off duty.

The point is that every worker’s definition of work/life balance will differ, depending on the specific balance their lives need at any point in time.

New York City is looking to craft a one-size-fits-all definition of work/life balance.

Proposed legislation would make it unlawful for private employers with 10 or more employees in the city of New York to require employees to check and respond to email and other electronic communications during non-work hours. It’s modeled after a 2017 French law.

According to City Councilman Rafael Espinal, who introduced the proposal, “We need to establish clear boundaries for employees so they can maintain a healthy work-life balance and live without fear of retaliation for not answering work communications after work hours.”

He further elaborated on Twitter:


I’m not a fan of this proposal. You cannot define workplace culture by statute. If an employee’s definition of work/life balance is the ability to disconnect at the end of the formal work day, and your culture is 24/7 availability, then that employee is not a fit for your company and its ethos. There are other workplaces that will better fit than employee’s needs, and other employees who better fit the company’s.

This legislation tries to make every workplace into a round hole, but, no matter the legislation, you will always have square pegs. It’s better to let the workplaces define their own cultures, including their own meaning of work/life balance, and let the employees find those that match their own. Otherwise, you are dooming employees to failure.

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