Whenever I think of my dad coming home from work, I think of the same conversation playing out, day after day.
“How was work?” someone would ask him.
He’d respond, “Over.”
And it was. He wouldn’t talk about it. It appeared he wouldn’t think about it. He moved on from it, and he was totally focused on his after-work life, including his faith, his family and his hobbies.
That was a solid 40 years ago when that would play out. I think about that sometimes when I think about the complaints about dedication to jobs exhibited by younger generations. So often they’re labeled as disloyal when they work up until the minute their shift is scheduled to finish, then they’d leave.
They’ve brought up the issues of work-life balance, and sometimes it’s been marked as a checkmark against them.
We need to stop thinking that a relentless, never-off-work mentality is somehow a good thing.
I’ve always struggled with balancing my professional and personal lives. For most of my 20s, I didn’t have a personal life. As a reporter, I used to gleefully boast that the only fiction I was ever allowed to write was on my timecard, since I’d scribble in the hours I should’ve worked and disregard the extra time I put into assignments simply because I wanted to do a better job.
Statistics from a survey by Zippia.com show I’m not alone in that flaw, with 32.8% of respondents saying “personal perfectionism” held them back from balancing their work and their life. The work itself only accounted for 13.8% of respondents’ barriers, while company culture (24.2%) and bosses and supervisors (13.2%) were other big factors.
The real fear is burnout, with 16% of respondents saying that was what held them back from balancing the paycheck with the reasons why we work.
I’ve really been pondering this lately, especially when seeing that 77% of employees have felt burnout at least once in their current jobs. That means people who are still doing a job have, at one time, felt so exhausted and overwhelmed by it that they wish they weren’t doing it anymore.
These are real issues that supervisors and employees alike should be weighing as we figure out how to work better and smarter.
I’m not necessarily sold that letting people work remotely solves all your problems. That same Zippia.com study found that people work more than 40 hours more often when they’re working remotely than employees working at a physical location do.
I completely understand that. While I’m able to pull off the appearance of work-life balance by leaving the office to go to my children’s events, that’s counteracted by plenty of early mornings and late nights logged into the same systems I would’ve used inside our physical offices. I’ve never been able to stop after 40 hours of work.
Work is never more than a phone call or email away. No matter how much time you dedicate, there will always be more work that could be done. I’ve never found the bottom of my to-do list at work. The best you can do is prioritize.
I had a conversation with a few of our editors a few days ago about the absolute importance of not working on our days off, and how we each have to hold each other accountable to that. We need to be able to help one another so our time off can truly be off, and our time on can be truly productive.
I hope to learn from them how to do it myself, as evidenced by the truth that I’m writing this weekly column on a day when the schedule says I shouldn’t be working. Some day, with some practice, I may be able to respond to questions about my workday the same way he once did, that’s it’s over.
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