I recently spoke to someone who called talk of work-life balance, more or less, hooey. He felt that the topic gets a rather tired treatment in the news, often focused exclusively on the difficulties working mothers have balancing everything on their plate, while there were plenty of people who desired balance for less valiant, but equally valid reasons, and that the news generally had an anti-work bent, as if the goal were to work as little as possible.
It got me thinking that the topic is inaccurately labeled an issue of “balance.” Most people like their jobs, and are not going to mind putting some extra time in to make sure that it is done well. What people are actually striving for is the chance to take control of the schedules they keep, and relief when months of incessant 12-hour workdays clearly evidence that a company needs to hire more help.
This sentiment is echoed in a poll released Sept. 12 by Dice.com, an IT job board. In it, only half of responding IT professionals said that they considered work-life balance an important aspect of their jobs, evidenced by 52 percent saying that they’d taken vacation time this summer. One-third (32 percent) also said they went away, but they checked in with the office while they were gone.
Many would jump to the conclusion that those who checked in with their offices while they were gone did not have a fair amount of work-life balance, yet professionals say again and again that in many cases, checking in helps them vacation better and with a freer mind, assured that they will not be returning to workplace chaos. Evidencing this, a December 2006 survey found that 80 percent of workers said that their Blackberrys were not ball-and-chains, but technology that allowed greater work flexibility (80 percent).
Personally, I’m more concerned about the 16 percent of IT pros that responded to Dice’s poll saying that they found taking time off to be “too much trouble. I’d rather be working.” Work dedication is good, no question, but choosing a cubicle over a beach in Bermuda seems excessive.