Working in the high tech field, it is not unusual to work for more than 40 hour a week. When people ask me if I start working at 9 AM and go home at 5 PM, I tend to reply that I have a flexible schedule and I determine my own work hours. They typically will give me a jealous look and tell me that it's awesome that I can determine my own work schedule. In reality, people that work in the high tech field will put in whatever time is needed to get the work done. This can mean working 30 hours a week, 40 hours a week, 60 hours a week, 80 hours a week, or even 100 hours a week. More than often, the actual work hours are more than 40 hours. Due to the ebbs and flows of projects, when there are "quiet" times, it's not unusual to find people showing up a bit later or/and leaving a bit early. Those who take advantage of these quiet times will find that the work hours eventually balance out... but there are also people that put in long work hours regardless. To me, work-life balance is very important. It brings me so much joy to be able to spend time playing with Baby T each day; it brings me joy and peace to be able to spend quality times with Mrs. T and have quality conversations. Unfortunately for some, work-life balance is non-existent. Below are some people that I have come across over the years that made me think twice about work-life balance.
Exhibit #1 Worker A
Worker A is a bit of a workaholic by nature. His daily commute takes 1.5 hour each way by train. He usually shows up to work around 9:30 AM to start his work day. Sounds alright but what you don't realize is that Worker A usually takes the last train that leaves just shortly before midnight to go home. When he gets home, although he's exhausted, he would grab a quick bite to eat, then finish checking his emails until close to 3 AM in the morning. He has been getting about 3 or so hours of sleep during weekdays; he tries to catch up on sleep on weekends by sleeping for more than 12 hours. He feels overwhelmed by his work and is completely exhausted. He has been doing this type of work hours for the lats 5 years and he has another 25 years before he reaches retirement age. He is really looking forward to his 15 year milestone with the company as the company gives any 15 year employees a 2 week paid sabbatical.
Exhibit #2 Corporate Ladder Guy A
Corporate Ladder Guy A is high up on the corporate ladder within his company. He travels about 50-60% of the year, flying all over the world. Because he deals with people all over the world, he usually starts his day early so he can catch people finishing their work day in the European time zones. He would work late into the evening so he can catch other people starting their work day in the Asian time zones. He rarely takes vacation during the year, even though he receives 25 days of vacation each year. On the rare occasion that he takes vacations, he always takes a few hours each day to reply emails and answering phone calls. He doesn't believe in disconnecting from work while on vacation.
Exhibit #3 Worker B
Worker B has been jumping around companies the last few years. His current company is known among the industry as a tech sweatshop. He's been with the company for about a year now. He is making great salary compared to his friends but he works for 12+ hours every day. Due to the insane project milestones and constant demands from management to meet all the deadlines, he was required to work 7 days a week for the last 6 months. There's no end sight on when he can get back to having a regular weekends to himself. Because his work provides free food and many other free amenities, he sometimes finds himself sleeping at the office instead of going home. His wife has been complaining about not seeing him on a regular basis and he feels that they're drifting apart more and more. He often comes home to find that his wife has purchased yet another luxury item while he's at the office. He wanted to talk to his wife about wasting money on these luxury items but he's just too tired to have a discussion. He's afraid that they'll just get into yet another argument. He has thought about starting a family but has some doubts about being a responsible parent.
Exhibit #4 Corporate Ladder Guy B
Just like his buddy CLG A, Corporate Ladder Guy B travels a lot during the year. He spends about 80-85% of the time on the road, having meetings at the different corporate offices around the world, meeting customers, bidding on potential businesses, and attending conferences. He's more or less at the top of the corporate ladder. He's making a ton of money, living in a mansion, having all the latest electronic gadgets, driving luxury cars, and drinking expensive wines. He seems to be on top of the world and can show off all his wealth but he rarely gets any "free" time. He recently came back home from a 3 week work trip to find that his wife has filed for a divorce...
I don't know about you but I sure don't envy any of these guys. I truly believe that life is about having a balance. Having a work-life balance will allow us to have a higher quality of life. Work should not define who we are. We should have control over what we want to do in life. Isn't it funny that we often ask someone that we just met what he or she does for work? Why do we spend so much emphasis on work? Rather, shouldn't we focus more on what we do in life and what we have done to improve our lives and other around us?
I'll finish this post with a question. Would you take a promotion and get a 15% pay raise when you are expected to work extra 10-20 hours each week and often the extra hours are during the weekend?