The term “Work Life Balance” seems to have existed for a long time. In writing this post, I did a bit of quick research and found the concept was not well defined until the last 20 years. Researchers have identified 3 key balance components: time, involvement and satisfaction. When work or life (family) demands are out of balance in one of these components, stress results. In my thinking about these posts, one of the areas Melissa and I have focused on all these years is balancing work and life – in a life that has both partners working in the same business. Though Melissa and I have different roles, we have worked together for 30 years. We have written about many aspects of our balance over the years, including the fine system and role separation. I think, though, about the random demands of operating a business or responding to clients. We are often not in control of our time and scheduling. If a client wants to talk at a specific time, we try to accommodate, even if that means re-arranging other items, business or personal, to do so. It has meant talking to a client from the road, even in the days where that might mean using a pay phone. It means answering the phone during lunch or dinner sometimes. It means dining with clients (in some great restaurants) instead of visiting friends. It has meant giving up seats at concerts or other events because work comes first. Being in it together has made it easier for each of us to understand. Way back when I was working as a photographer, it was harder for Melissa to accept that my work often meant attending other people’s parties and events, on what would be a “normal person’s” off work time. But, for me, the main way to balance, work/life/satisfaction is to not fight it. Recognize the demands, accept that they are a part of “what we got ourselves into” and make the best of it. It means we can “play hooky” one afternoon, run personal errands during “office hours” and (mostly) not feel guilty. I say mostly because, it sometimes feels like I should be at my desk “dialing for dollars” from 9 to 5. But, the reality is owning a business is not a 9 to 5 job and it is important to take care of yourself along the way.
Due to the lasting impact of COVID-19 on our nation’s workplaces, the issue of work/life balance has taken on a new urgency. Although many corporations are requiring their employees to return to the office full time, and some workplaces, such as hospitals, never allowed remote working, other employers are struggling for ways to keep their employees happy in the office after over a year of working at home, while wearing their pajamas all day. I have heard countless people saying they are going to quit their job if their employer dares to require them to come back to the office. For these people, working at home has provided them with freedoms that were never before possible. They don’t have to commute, they don’t have to interact with despised co-workers, and best of all, they don’t have to do their work. Recent research has revealed that, although employees who have been working from home are working longer hours than they were pre- COVID-19, overall productivity is at a considerably lower level. Thus, the work/life balance, in our current situation, favors the employee more than the employer. And, finding people who are willing to work has become more difficult than it once was. Magnus is in the process of obtaining applications for employment. Many candidates have asked David if they can work remotely. How would this be possible? Magnus’ work is nationwide, with frequent travel as a job requirement. How would we conduct our research while sitting around at home, perhaps eating bon bons? I am all for work/life balance, but our current employment situation seems to be off kilter and in need of serious realignment. As for David and me, we will keep working when there is work to do and we will relax when the opportunity arises.
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