Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Work my fingers to the bone..."

"What do you get? Boney fingers!" I know this old country song for one reason and one reason only. As a child my father would sing it over and over and when he got to "Boney Fingers!" he would take his knuckles and attempt to tickle me the only way a father knows how to tickle... painfully.

Those words repeated over and over in my head recently as my inspiration for my next blog post hit me like the treadmill greets the pecks of the guy in the new Voice Activated Ford Sync Commercial. It's okay that you laughed at that!

Onto the blog... you hear the phrase "work-life balance" thrown around a lot these days in the corporate environment. Company websites boast flex schedules and work from home to help their employees achieve this idea. I read an article last week about an advertising firm that allowed new moms to bring their newborns to work for the first six months. How many technological devices have been invented to help employees organized their lives and attain this harmony that so few can accomplish? Try googling "work life balance training" and see the links to company after company willing to take your money in exchange for insight into their 7 step process to total work-life domination.

I personally think companies and employees are making this too difficult. Companies are taking on the responsibility of helping employees manage their lives when if they would simply give them an appropriate work load the employees might find themselves empowered to handle it themselves. I listen as employees recount their 1AM email sessions, or their 45 minute phone interview conducted while driving their kids to school and I question if VPN and hands free are truly the work-life balance godsends our corporate websites are claiming them to be. I wonder if our spouses and kids are thrilled to have us at every soccer game and awards banquet with our little blue lights in our ear providing the pyrotechnics for the event, or if they wouldn't rather us just be fully there for half of them. Maybe to show up and leave the blackberry in the car and not be quizzed on if the venue has free wireless access.

It seems the more we dump on our employees the less likely they are to connect at home regardless of what device we give them. As a company we try to caution them from doing too much from home and even go so far as to dictate they are to take a day off. Isn't it a bit contradictory to expect them to stop working for 24 hours knowing good and well if they do they are simply postponing the workload and stress. Afterall, we trained them fully on procrastination just last month!

Too much work can also lead to and increased probability of erroneous output. I know when my "to do cup" is running over the last thing I need to be tasked with is something immenant and important... like brain surgery. So we are setting these employees up for failure and when they fail and are reprimanded who hears about it? Their spouse! It is packaged up, taken home and presented at the dinner table over a bed of mixed greens and balsalmic vinegarette. Don't worry spouses... you won't have to hear about it long because you will disrupted by a familiar buzz and your broken husband or wife excusing themselves from the table to take the call. Ahhhh work-life balance!

So in this day and age if you overwork yourself day in and day out what do you get? More money and more stress! A love of either could leave you happy with your results so you choose. Afterall, it's your work-life.


Garrison said...

I love it! All so true! I often think about our parents' and grandparents' generations. They had no cell phones or email back then. So, when they left the office they were "unplugged" and disengaged until the following morning. Can you imagine?!?

True story - A few years ago we were recruiting for a local Austin startup and were helping with their employment brand. When I posed the question of why someone would want to work for them, their astute HR person referenced their "work live balance" policy. As I probed further she referenced a "flexible lunch hour" and "jean day Friday". Now that is what I call work life balance!!

Paige Prince said...

just think ZEN. it was mentioned somewhere in that song that i know as a child too. maybe between "the clothes need washin, and your breakin my heart" verse.

Paige Prince said...

just think ZEN. it was mentioned in the song right before "the clothes need washin and your breakin my heart."

Raymond said...

Nice writeup, B. This is something I realized about 13 years ago while working for a consulting firm. My division Sr. VP made a heck of a lot more money than I did, and had lots of expensive toys at home, including a power boat and season tickets to an MLB team. But, he was never home long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor. I worked long hours back then, but he worked even longer hours. That's when I had the epiphany: I would never sacrifice personal and family time for money. What good is money if you don't have time to spend it? I would never work for a company that demand work over family. I'd rather work less, make less, and be happier.

Incidentally, I very happy with my current employer. Our work load is such that there is no room to slack off. But, if you focus for the bulk of the work day, you will deliver on time. No burning mid-night oil here. Not even on product release week.