Work-life balance: Outdated? Achievable? A pipe dream?

The things I love about working in the online space also make it terrible for work-life balance. The immediacy, the connectivity, the multimedia – it all makes it difficult to disengage and switch off. Like me, some of you have a bit of an internet addiction personally; add to that at least 40 hours a week for work and it quickly gets exhausting.

I’m still holding out. I don’t have a smartphone myself (I drop my phones a lot and I refuse to pay the exorbitant data prices we’re charged in NZ), nor do I have one for work (I’ve always figured once that happens, you’re always expected to be reachable).

Yes, working in online, the hours can be awful, and like many other fields, longer for those higher up the chain. Even those lucky enough to have something close to a 9-5, Monday to Friday schedule, know they can be called in anytime.

None of the women in my department have kids. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I’m still years upon years away from even thinking about babies, but it is certainly food for thought.

Balance is something that’s really important to me. Or at least striving for it. This is a “passion” job, although like I’ve said, I certainly don’t wake up rearing to go. I wouldn’t want to be in any other industry at this stage, but money aside, I’d rather work less and spend more time pursuing my other interests. I happily put in overtime as needed, but I refuse to let work be my life. Or my life be work. It’s something that’s easy to get sucked into, and something I see in others in this industry.

Or is work-life balance increasingly a remnant of the past? I occasionally check in on the #u30pro Twitter chat; it’s aimed at young professionals, and most of the participants seem to work in media-related roles. I find all the talk of “authenticity” a bit tiring, but one of the things I’ve observed is that not many think balance is realistic – or even desirable. Which I think is most commendable, but there have got to be limits.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Are you expected to be available outside hours? Is switching off easy/feasible/desirable?

13 thoughts on “Work-life balance: Outdated? Achievable? A pipe dream?

  • Reply fabulouslyfrugirl March 22, 2011 at 15:35

    I’m usually working about 8:30 – 6:00pm. Not expected to work after hours unless there is a deadline. I don’t have a work phone, but if there is a deadline, or someone has questions for a report I wrote, I should be reachable.

    I would not want a smartphone from work – it seems to me like a really long leash.

  • Reply Little Miss Moneybags March 22, 2011 at 15:41

    I so hear you. I have a smart phone but I refuse to have my work email connected to it (they’re not paying the bill, so why should I?!).

    I have less of a problem physically leaving the office as I do mentally. When I get home I’m always thinking of what I have left to do, and I frequently dream about it, meaning I wake up feeling like I’ve worked all night and then I have to go work all day.

    Corporate culture at my office is 8:30-6 or later – I’d LOVE to have a 9-5. I don’t know how the women with kids do it.

  • Reply SP March 22, 2011 at 16:34

    I work in an entirely closed environment and am literally not allowed to take work home for security reasons. So yeah. It is actually a little awesome, except on the rare case when I’d like to. Like tonight, I’d like to practice my presentation in my home mirror, but it isn’t allowed.

    I do think about work outside work, often (oddly enough) while running. But mostly that is just interesting technical problems. The stuff I hate taking home is frustrating office politics/personalities.

    Hours are somewhat flexible, but we are generally expected to put in 40, whatever that 40 may be (and be there in the key working hours).

  • Reply Well Heeled Blog March 22, 2011 at 17:58

    I think my work-life balance is pretty good, but what I’ve found is that “flexibility” in your schedule means that work can pop in any minute. Also, when you travel for work, work / life gets a little messed up because it’s impossible to fit business trips into neat 9-5 compartments. If you include traveling for work, actual work, freelance and blog administration, I feel like I am basically working 99% of my waking hours. I try to fit work in whenever I can, so that I have reached the strange dilemma of – when I am working, I wish I can just RELAX and have fun, but when I am not working, I feel guilty because I know I SHOULD be working. It’s dammed if I don’t, and dammed if I do. >< The good? part about this is that my bf is taking classes part-time, so it helps that we are both busy so no one feels neglected.

  • Reply Well Heeled Blog March 22, 2011 at 18:01

    Oh, and I have a work smartphone. It’s actually good because it means 1. I don’t miss client calls, and 2. I can check my emails away from the office. There’s nothing more dreadful than having a giant pile of emails waiting for you. So I’d rather check my phone throughout the day / weekend than be inundated with email come Monday morning.

  • Reply Serendipity March 22, 2011 at 18:49

    I had a work phone for four months while my site was being remodeled and no one had real constant contact with me. While it was great and special at first, I grew to hate it. My supervisors would call me at all hours at home and at work and then demand things and when they couldn’t get ahold of me, would leave me looooong voicemails. Not that all work is like that and I honestly don’t mind if people call my cell phone here and there but sometimes people ( workaholic bosses) have a hard time wondering why work isn’t my life. Quite frankly, I don’t make enough for it to be. Hence, persuing my other passions and living my life. =)

  • Reply Emily Jane March 23, 2011 at 01:49

    I think if a workplace encourages a work-life balance, they shouldn’t be so tough on things like blogging over the lunch hour or checking personal email while at work! I am not expected to be available outside hours, thankfully, but I am expected to do whatever it takes to achieve deadlines, meaning staying late/not taking lunches etc. It’s not too bad…

  • Reply Daisy March 23, 2011 at 02:36

    I’m not sure how my internship will go, but I know typically they are demanding. I’m okay with that! I signed up for it, and I’ll work 100 hours per week if needed. Although, since it’s paid, they’ll keep me at 40 cause they won’t want to pay me overtime.
    I think that when your first embarking on your career, like me, you absolutely have to be switched “on” at all times. As you get more settled, work life balance is SO important.

  • Reply Lindy Mint March 23, 2011 at 15:34

    I worked a passion job where my boss would call me at home in the evenings to discuss business. Even though it was nothing demanding she was calling about, it got annoying really quickly. That same job required me to get up at 3 AM to get work done since I couldn’t do it while my kids were awake.

    So I guess I’m one of those who prefer to leave my work at work. That may mean I don’t have high-powered positions, but I’m okay with that. I definitely think the work-life balance is attainable though, even for highly successful people in demanding fields. It’s just a matter of finding that balance.

  • Reply First Gen American March 25, 2011 at 22:04

    I’ve given up some opportunities lately for the sake of balance. I was just talking about one the other day. It’s a great job but would require even more travel than I already do, so I said no thanks. Balance is hard. The other day I couldn’t find the phone on my desk because the papers just covered it, so I spent the day cleaning my office. It felt good. Sometimes work/life balance is achieved by just taking a little time to clean house and organizing yourself.

    People who’s careers are their lives have a very hard time adjusting to retirement and/or job losses. I don’t want to be that person.

  • Reply quarterlifegirl March 27, 2011 at 04:05

    I think when work is also a “passion” it makes it a little harder to do the whole “work-balance” thing….I say this because I’ve observed my BF working. He can’t help it if his mind drifts back to work, and he doesn’t mind it at all. I’ve always felt guilty about being able to completely disconnect at 5pm, and I think there’s something wrong with that. I have hobbies, and I like to think I have a life. It’s my right to have those! (However, that’s not to say that if I was needed past 5 I bolted out the door anyway…) I realize it probably means I’ll never be a high-powered executive, but I’d rather (I think) be able to have a life outside the office than be a slave to my title.

  • Reply Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom March 31, 2011 at 04:36

    I seem to like a bit of unbalance that balances out over the year. That means I go in and work somewhere and it’s all about that. Then take a few months off and it’s all about travel or house projects. I think I’m just wired that way, when I work part-time at an unconsuming job (like right now), it just doesn’t feel right to me. Weird, I know. 🙂

  • Reply When tossed in the deep end, will you sink or swim? | Musings of an Abstract Aucklander June 11, 2011 at 19:35

    […] also means a lot is riding on me. For the first time, I’m going to have a work phone. I’m going to have more riding on my little shoulders, rather than being part of an entire […]

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