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The NEW Work-Life Balance
April 16, 2021 – The twelfth official Friday Night BeerBlog
The NEW normal. The new normal. The new normal. We’ve heard it over and over ad nauseam. Last April I had already declared it a phrase that COVID killed. It’s still dead, but I can see why it’s being used. Normal assumes typical or routine. And because of the things we have experienced in a compact amount of time this last year, a new sense of typical and routine has been born. The new normal is just the normal normal now.
There are many aspects of life that I see taking on this new normal, but none as prevalent as the “working from home” scenario. When the quarantine started, we were all sent packing, with our computers, monitors, notebooks, pens, staplers, et cetera, et cetera. We didn’t know when we would return to the old brick and mortar, but we would be returning at some point, right?
The months went by and time was saved by not having to sit in traffic on the way to the office. We were able to see and spend time with our families because they were around all day, all night, 24/7. All the tech became our bitch. So much money was saved by eating at home versus lunches out to escape the office. And we actually saw the sun in the middle of the day instead of chasing it at the end of the day.
So many benefits for us. Aren’t we lucky? But hold on, don’t you think for a second that the places of employment aren’t getting something in return. And in fact, it may be greater than we even know. Maybe not today, but eventually.
Let me ask you a question. If you had an issue that you were working on in the office, how likely would you stay until 7 or 8 o’clock or later to work on it? And again the next day? Now, in your new normal of working from home, how likely would you be to sit at your computer at home after hours working on the same issue? And again tomorrow?
I work for myself in a freelance role and don’t necessarily adhere to a regular schedule because it can be different every day, but I’ve taken a notice of people who were hired to work a 40-50 hour/week job creeping to 50-60+ hours/week. I see Mike doing it all the time. Sitting at that computer until 6 – 7 – 8pm on the regular. I understand that there’s a job to do and sometimes you have to color outside the lines, but when the practice gets to “new normal” status, then it becomes a problem.
And I haven’t just noticed it with Mike. I often get emails from staff producers or editors at 7pm or later. Again, I know there is a job to be done, but when I hear how employers champion a good work-life balance, but then declare you aren’t dedicated if you aren’t available to answer calls or emails after “work hours”, it gets me to thinking. Working from home has blurred the lines between what is “work time” and what is “home time”.
We’ve been made to feel we’re lucky to have a job, especially during this pandemic, so we do whatever, whenever to show our appreciation instead of the other way around. We reward employers behavior by responding at all hours. But are you getting anything in return, really? Are they paying you extra? Are they giving you comp time or extra vacation days? If there is a RIF (reduction in full-time employees) are they going to look at your personnel record and say, “This employee works above and beyond and therefore should be spared.”?
I regularly nag Mike when he is still sitting at the desk late at night. I remind him that the work he is currently doing is for free and probably unappreciated. He responds much like Carrie Fisher’s character Marie from When Harry Met Sally, “You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right.”
Is there an answer? I’m not sure. All I know is that there HAVE to be boundaries in this NEW normal. When your work life becomes your home life and your home life becomes your work life, issues will arise. Remind yourself that work is work and home is home. Get up, turn off the computer, turn out the light in the area where you’ve been working, and walk away.
Work doesn’t define who you are, it’s just what you do. What defines you is being a great wife / husband / daughter / son / friend / mother / father / co-worker. It’s how you make people feel and how true you are to who you really are that matters.
Read any obit, and I doubt you’ll discover how this person worked overtime to please their profession. What you will read about is their family and their legacy, which revolves around people and beliefs, not work. Bottom line, life is short. Don’t waste yours at a desk for any longer than you have to.
The choice for a new work-life balance is yours. Don’t give your choice away.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
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Such a tricky balance, and a fine line to walk. Especially when we are sucked in at the moment in the middle of something, or thinking that if we just do this and get it done it will mean more free time tomorrow. (I tend to do that, but it doesn’t often actually play out that way.) I agree with another podcast I heard once that said maybe there isn’t even an actual balance, so if we keep striving for that… maybe it isn’t an attainable goal. That person said maybe “harmony” was a better goal. As a freelancer, creative, and person who tends to be doing multiple projects at once (paid work and not), that tends to be the direction I aim. It is an ebb and flow thing. I still have a lot of work to do to get there. Being aware of it does help, so thanks for a great reminder once again! Cheers to you!
I totally used your “harmony” line with someone I was talking to this weekend and it hit a homerun with the guy. It was just the word he was looking for. So Yes I totally agree. Unless things are perfect they aren’t in true balance, but you can be off and still in harmony. I so fell into that freelance trap this past week – working way late on a paying job to free up time during the day for other projects. I was nearly insane by the end of the week (and off). I was feeling a little overwhelmed on all the different directions I was going in, but I slowed down over the weekend to recharge. It was much needed. I’m reading a part of that Stressed Out book now that talks about the absolute need for REST. I’m for it!