A healthy balance between working and personal life is the aim of many working people. The theory is that you need a fulfilling life outside of your work, and need to be able to fulfil caring responsibilities, spend time with family and loved ones, look after your health, pursue hobbies and take holidays. This reduces stress, helps to improve work performance and allows you to fulfil your career ambitions.
This is easier said than done! Even in the pre pandemic way of working at the office many people found themselves working long hours there and spending too little time at home to achieve a good balance. This can have a serious effect on mental health. Was WFH going to be the opportunity to reset that and achieve the perfect work life balance?
Some people found that although they could adopt a flexible approach to WFH and incorporate an element of family life, they were always available to their office and found it difficult to separate work and home life.
You have to remember to manage your life as well as your career. Can we have it all –career, family, social life? Or do we have to make choices to establish a happy balance?
Most people feel they are expected to put work first and fit their life around it, making a balance very difficult to achieve
Let’s look at some opinions expressed in 2013 in response to publication of a book called “Lean in “by Sheryl Sandberg’s.
Ms Sandberg is COO of Facebook and a married mother of two. Her book urged women not to sell themselves short in their career aspirations, but to “Lean in” to the challenge.She argued that women make many small decisions along the way, and often without even realising it, they stop reaching for new opportunities. In our society this could apply to many men too, who are pressured to be a new man at home as well as the breadwinner at work.
Sandberg’s advice was that women must not aim lower in their career because they want to have children eventually, but to work their way up the corporate chain so they are more able to set their own terms when they have children. She claimed the lack of women in senior positions is as much about women’s unconscious self-sabotage as by institutional sexism.
When she was CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer ended work at home arrangements at Yahoo, and was accused of being out of touch. She built a nursery next to her office, an option not necessarily open to everyone.
Anne –Marie Slaughter, an academic at the USA State Department, who left her job to spend more time with her teenage children, said that it is not women who need to change, but the macho work culture.
Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post said that everyone should lean in but the culture needs to change; the male dominated model of success does not work for men or women
Erin Callan Former CFO of Lehman Brothers said that before the crash and her resignation in 2008, her every waking moment was spent working. She commented that she followed with interest the escalating work life balance debate and the positions taken by Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Anne –Marie Slaughter and others. She has no children but says her spouse, friends and family did not get the best version of her.
Here are some extracts from a Sunday Times article she contributed to on 24 March 2013 “my boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left ….What I did was who I was…I am beginning to realise that I sold myself short….“
She goes on to say her marriage has ended and at age 47 she and her new husband are now undergoing IVF because she missed having a child of her own.
She ends by saying “Whatever valuable advice I have about managing a career, I am only now learning how to manage a life “
These days’ people do not have the opportunity to look forward to retirement as our parents’ generation did. So, lean back, before you topple over, and carve out some time for yourself, family and hobbies.
At the time of writing in 2021 I would comment that during the pandemic the government expected parents to home-school children as well as WFH. I know it was a difficult time for everyone and we were dealing with an unplanned crisis, but research shows that it was women who bore the brunt of this situation. I would surmise not much has changed in the macho work culture.