I am about to reach my 32nd years breathing in this world. I have been spending my last 9 years to earn for a living, after the whole 18 years preparation period at school before. So I am going to share my view as an inexperienced (realizing that 9 years of professional experiences is nothing compared to those successful men out there), about what is ‘work-life balance’, based on my own point of view. Do feel free to criticize or to disagree on this.
I started my professional career as a trainee. I spent my first 4 months to be trained Java-Oracle-Networking, as well as soft skills such as presentation and amazingly: table manner (which immediately evaporated out of my mind as soon as the lesson is over, I am so sorry for the trainer). So during that time, as a newborn professional who was trying to grab onto anything good enough to start, I did not even have any concept of work-life-balance. it was ok for me to come to office after office hour, it was ok for me to have non-paid overtime (there was one period of working late until midnight every single day, and I remember it was for one full month), and I was not too pushy if my salary raise is not as what as I expected. All of those were for the sake of learning. I felt like I need to take whatever knowledge and experiences I could take during that time.
Then, everything changed when
the Fire Nation attacked I had more confidence. I started to look outside, and I began to compare. I know that in some way, it’s bad to compare, but in this kind of situation, you had to. I realized that it was the time for me to move on, because I was hungry for more exposure. Hence, in short, I have worked for 5 companies since I left my first job, including the current one.
Once I experienced a work environment in which you are expected to be available 24/7 (the boss even said that this is because I work in IT field and it has to be like this). During that time, it looks as if you are not allowed to have a peace of mind, even if you are out of office, even if you are overseas during holiday. What do you think about this? Is this the opposite of work-life-balance? Or do you think this one is still in balance?
Another experience of mine was surprisingly quite an opposite. This time, I was pushed not to work outside working hours. I was told not to bring your work home. Everybody tried not to contact anybody from work for work-related purpose outside office. So what about this one? Does this mean work-life-balance?
I believe not. It is not that simple. For me, work-life-balance is entirely subjective. To what? To the environment and level/position. Of course all of my experiences entirely are related with IT industry since I am working in it. Now, let’s talk on why.
Environment. If you imagine that you are working as a bartender (I am trying to imagine something entirely different than mine), you are working hard every day, standing, preparing drinks. But what kind of possibilities could happen after his/her working hours finished? Nothing. Nobody will call him/her after his/her shift ended. On the contrary, if you are a bodyguard – for example, you can expect that you will work almost 24 hours a day during your guarding period. You should be fully alerted during that period. From this two simple examples, I can understand that based on the environment or the type of job we are working on, there are some certain different standards that allow us to determine if we have work-life-balance. We can’t say that for the bodyguard you have to provide 9 to 5 working hours, or we can’t say that for a bartender you have to work fully 24 hours a day. Each of the environments has it’s own standard.
Level/position. I always thought that if I got promoted to a certain level in my professional career, I can enjoy my life better. I can have more spare time for me and family, or I can be more relaxed in life. But reality sometime speaks differently. I have seen a unit manager in a bank who worked non stop for 3 days. So clearly this is not the case. But again, ideally, if you are in a higher position, you will have more responsibilities. You will have more pressure since you are not in the bottom anymore. Your subordinates will pressure you, as well as your bosses. Even if you are on the top of the hierarchy, you will still be pressured from your peers or from your subordinates. But wait, let’s try again to imagine if you are a fresh graduate. Again maybe similar as my case before, you will be care less about your working hour. As long as you got your basic salary paid, you will work as hard as you could. But if you are a general manager, you have somebody to delegate your works to, you have a team you can manage to get something done. So ideally, you should have more time for something else.
Let’s try to summarize these. Based on environment, there are different standards that define work-life-balance according to each ones. As well as for each level/position, there are different responsibilities that also define work-life-balance. So for me, work-life-balance means you can divide your time according to your standard and role. You can’t simply ask for the same annual leave quota between a fresh graduate and a general manager. The more the responsibilities, the more off-day is provided by the company. For me, work-life-balance is not a rule. It is a mindset of each person on how he/she will work. It is a culture that should be initiated by individuals, not entirely by company rules. Basically, companies want you to work as hard as you can, because companies are based on profits. But if the individuals already have work-life-balance mindset and tried to apply this to each-other, at the end, it will define the culture of the company itself.
Work-life-balance is to prioritize. What would you prioritize in life? Mine is family. Second is work. So I will try to put family first instead of work in every occasion, as best as I can.
So what is work-life-balance according to you?
Note: image in this post is courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com