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What does work-life balance mean to you and would you give something up to get it?

I’m curious to know: what does work-life balance mean to you?  Is it important, a nice to have or a must have?  Is it something you value enough to forego something else – like promotional prospects or pay?  

I got thinking about this after reading an article in the Australian Financial Review a couple of weeks ago citing a survey by Beaton Consulting in which 1164 partners and staff at 34 small to large law firms: a whopping 31% of respondents said they really cared only about work and making piles of money.  So much so they claim not to be attracted by promises of work-life balance or a nice working environment – they’re in if for the challenge and the cold hard cash.

But what about you – is it something you look for in a workplace or a job?  Work life balance is a key priority for me and it’s a good thing too. I’m in for a crazy busy week…. with the Diversity on Boards tomorrow and Thursday morning, then speaking at a businesswomen’s symposium on Thursday afternoon before flying to Melbourne that night for our first sphinxx development day there on Friday.  Fortunately it’s not always like this – or I’d be burnt out in no time.  My balance comes from being able to spend enough time on all the things that are important to me – though I tend to do it in “chunks” rather than in the form of a regular schedule.

As far as I can remember, I’ve always been like this.  And it’s always worked for me.  I sort of go hard when I need to, and take the foot off the pedal when I can.  When I worked in a global consulting firm and afterwards in my own consulting practice, this was important because I could respond to the peaks and troughs in the work without burnout.

As an employee, my balance came from the relationships I shared with my friends, family and colleagues, as well as several hobbies and interests outside of work.  I’ve always had a number of things that are equally important to me in terms of the way I spend my time – and work is just one of them.  I refer to this as having a multi-dimensional life – a concept familiar to many working women – and I think this reflects the way I focus my time better than the term work-life balance.  Particularly as several of my interests have now become business pursuits – so while I’m often generating income, the different streams are all enjoyable and bring a complete change of scenery from one another.

Take the farm for instance.  I’m just back in the city and the office today after a few days in the fresh country air and it feels like I’ve been on a vacation.  My husband – a.k.a. Dr Dolittle – has a new pet lamb and between it and the beagles there was plenty of entertainment over the weekend.  We also spent the weekend handing over a couple of donkey foals to their new owners and tagging about 60 new lambs – it’s hard work but there’s so many distractions I have no choice but to switch off.  Of course it helps that there’s no mobile phone signal at the farm either!

Mine is a fairly unorthodox form of work-life balance, but the main thing is there’s more in my life than work.  What is also true is that I’m generating less income than I did in my last executive role: less but more, if you take into account the other forms of currency my portfolio career now generates.

So going back to my opening question – I’m curious to know: what does work-life balance mean to you?  Is it important, a nice to have or a must have?  Is it something you value enough to forego something else – like promotional prospects or pay?

Please post your comments here on the blog and let’s open up this debate…

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