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Has work-life balance become a buzzword? And can we get it back?
When we work with new parents (and often new moms), there are obviously a lot of different stress elements. One of the biggest is sleep. That’s, in part, why we designed an overnight care service. The other sources of stress are varied, including:
- A fear of not being good enough / don’t know they are doing (common and almost everyone feels this)
- Worried they will screw something up and affect their kid long-term
- Work-life balance
That third one is a real tough one to deal with, especially for women.
I don’t want to get political on this blog (I don’t like to), but I will say this. While the overall ecosystem of work is changing for the better, it’s still very much a “man’s world.” There are more CEOs in the S&P 1500 with one name — John — than women overall.
Because of the male-dominated nature of a lot of work, over the last few generations different assumptions have crept in about women. Specifically you all know some of the bigger narratives:
- “Her focus is the kids now; it’s not the career.”
- “We can’t expect that much from her anymore.”
The flip side to those narratives is:
- “We expect the exact same amount, and maybe even more, despite the fact that she has a newborn.”
All three of these sentences do nothing for work-life balance, and the third one actually makes it significantly worse. (And creates a ton of stress for the new mom.)
The essence of the problem is this: work-life balance, like many other work terms, became a buzzword. When you hear it now, you eye-roll.
If you run a company or are an executive, you likely think: “Balance? But we have goals to meet!”
If you’re a worker, you think: “Balance? I was checking email at 11pm last night!”
Because both sides think of it that way, the idea of work-life balance kind of went out the window. It doesn’t really exist for a lot of people.
But now, the important question: can we get it back?
At some organizations/companies with a more functional view of how people relate to technology and work, we can definitely get it back.
At old-school companies, though, it’s much harder. If seat time and “accountability time” are crucial, then no. Work-life balance will not be in those places.
This is what I mean, in bullet point form:
- Let’s say you’re a new mom.
- You get put on a big project.
- Someone estimates it might take 60 hours this week.
- You complete your part in 25 hours of focused work.
- Do you need to be around/beholden for the other 35 hours, or can you give it back to your family?
There are two distinct company approaches to this. Some companies say “Yes, you must be around all 60 hours.” In those companies, work-life balance is a complete buzzword. Other companies say, “The work getting completed in a quality way is what matters, not the time.” In those companies, men and women can thrive with growing families.
We’re getting closer on these issues, but we’re still pretty far off. And while I don’t know if I love the expression about a woman “having it all,” I know it’ll never be possible until we begin rethinking how we consider and track projects in the context of work-life balance.