On Balance

Today is Work-Life Balance Day. For it to have a useful meaning, the concept of a ‘work-life balance’ depends on work and life being two different things. Thinking about different people’s work-life balances, we could conclude, for example, that a hedge fund manager who works 35 hours a week and earns a solid six figure sum each year has less life than a person who is one of the long term unemployed and dependent on social housing.

The concept of work-life balance is an instrument of the employer. Your employers have no particular interest in what you do outside work, just as they are pretty unconcerned about what the office chairs are doing when there is no-one sitting on them.

Their only concern, for the time spent not working, is that you do not participate in any activity that might interfere directly with your effectiveness while you are working, or with the effectiveness of the enterprise you serve. If sleeping in a ditch and drinking meths makes you productive at work, then they will openly encourage you to do that in their Happy Christmas e-mails wishing you a productive new year, and the organisational culture will be one conducive to sleeping in a ditch and drinking meths. It just so happens that, for most of us, drinking meths does not generally make for a productive worker, so normal Happy Christmas e-mails will instead talk about a ‘well-deserved break with friends and family’, with the employers arrogating for themselves the role of deciding what you deserve.

2 Responses to “On Balance”

  1. 1 karen morath March 1, 2008 at 4:17 am


    I write about work/life balance without really believing in it literally. I come from the ‘we only have one life’ school – we are living when we are at work too. My take on it is more along the lines of live according to your own plans and seize the day. We don’t know how many years we have so we need to ensure we have as many ‘palm trees and margaritas’ moments (however we define them) as we can. My site is http://www.palmtreesandmargaritas.com See what you think.

    Karen Morath

  2. 2 Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson March 8, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    We agree with Karen – seize the day!! No one, on their deathbed, is going to say “I really wish I would have spent more time working.” COME ON – who are we kidding?!

    And let’s face it – leadership in companies is not going to open up the floodgates and allow their employees to seize their days. It will be up to employees to demand that opportunity. And, if employees get the work done, it will be up to employers to let them manage their own time to continue to do that. Let them do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done.

    Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson
    Creators of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)
    Authors of the forthcoming book “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It”

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February 2008

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