Work-Life Balance Is Out of Sync

It’s time to rebalance your life.

By Chuck Martin
Tue, May 16, 2006

CIO — The lack of balance between work and personal life is getting worse.

It’s not that some people aren’t trying, but the workload and the inability to truly get away from work are driving more businesspeople to spend more time working and less at home and with family.

In a survey over a base of 2,000 senior executives and managers in hundreds of businesses, we found that less than 1 percent of them thought most people in business today were extremely balanced when it came to work and personal life.

And when it comes to that balance, the number of managers who feel most people in business are unbalanced has gone up compared to three years ago, when we conducted this same worldwide survey.

"There is no balance, North Americans live to work," said one survey respondent. "From middle managers up, we are conditioned to accept 60-hour workweeks as the minimum standard, often with artificial deadlines that have little to do with reality."

"In the everyday rush to get things done and trying to find time to meet the personal needs when business has so many demands on people, it makes more people tend to live to work rather than work to live," said another respondent.

When it comes to personally balancing their work and home life, slightly more than half of respondents said they were balanced, with fewer than 15 percent saying they were extremely balanced.

Part of the difficulty in balancing work and personal life is that more people can more easily stay connected to work all the time, largely due to technology.

"This survey struck a chord with me," said one respondent. "I am on vacation, but it’s not my father’s vacation, that’s for sure, because I’m checking e-mails and voice mails frequently. It is a great example of the fact that for most successful individuals, work/life balance has become almost non-existent. If you are a high achiever, you are on call most of the time, even when on vacation. The same technology that has helped us to be more successful and efficient (e.g., Blackberry, Wi-Fi) has become so ubiquitous that very few places, however remote, are beyond the reach of work."

Said another: "There’s too much technology that keeps me connected to work when not at work. I feel compelled to view e-mail and respond at nights and on weekends. I recently made the decision that I will check e-mail when I first get home only. On weekends, I will maybe look once or twice on Saturday and check on Sunday evening with the expectation of only responding to very critical issues or e-mails. This seems to be helping me better balance."

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