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
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.”
The real key to achieving work-life balance regarding technology is
to know when and where to turn it off. While being continually
connected has obvious business benefits, people need to take breaks
from the constant barrage of communications to recharge and think.
Vacation is to take vacation.
“Today’s culture is based on always being in touch via cell, e-mail,
‘crackberry,’ whatever,” said one survey respondent. “Taking time off
is nearly frowned upon, it seems. It’s gotten pretty sick overall and I
find it affects me, leaving me feeling guilty perhaps if I don’t work
on a weekend. I also believe there are some people who WANT to overwork
because it makes them feel important. My husband nearly twitches from
nerves if he doesn’t check e-mail or work on the weekend.”
Business leaders should step up and support more work-life balance
both for themselves and those they manage. More balanced employees are
likely to be more productive as well as stay with the business longer.