Last week, Mrs. SSC and the kids were on Spring Break and they went to visit her parents for a few days leaving me alone in the house with the dogs. I missed them, but it was nice getting some quiet time to myself around the house. When I mentioned this situation to a co-worker, “Sue”, she responded with, “Oh, so you’ll be able to stay late and get a lot of work done this week, huh?” To which I promptly replied, “What?! No, I plan on leaving on time or maybe even early every day. I can finally be unbalanced on the life side of work life balance.” Then she mentioned when her partner is out of town she likes to come in early and work later than usual. I didn’t think too much about it though, you know, to each their own.
Then yesterday morning Sue was having a conversation with “Bill” and was asking him if he took any time off over Spring Break.
Bill: “No, I don’t generally take time off.”
Sue: “You must roll over a lot of vacation, then. That’s nice” (How is it nice accruing vacation if you don’t use it I wondered?)
Bill: “Yeah, I’ve got over 200 hrs of vacation right now. Well, I take a day or two here and there, but no real time off. Just generally Fridays, but even then I’ll work on things from home. It’s not stressful, I just like it.”
Sue: “Yeah I like working from the house too. I’ll usually do some work on the weekends if I can squeeze time in.”
This conversation just blew my mind. I know workaholics exist, but neither of these struck me as that kind of personality before. The way they were talking about work made it sound like no big deal to work away from the office and not enjoy their time away from the office. Then the judgy-pants came on and I started thinking “What kind of life have you built for yourself if you would rather do work from home than live your life while at home”?
Does Work Life Balance Really Exist?
My last company made a huge deal about “work life balance” yet I worked from home while employed there WAY more than I ever have worked from home at my current company. It wasn’t uncommon that I’d be on a computer from 9pm – 12am about 1-3 nights a week because I had so many crazy deadlines. My new place rarely mentions work life balance, yet it’s some of the best actual work life balance that I’ve had. I have a desktop – yes an actual tower sitting on my desk – and while I can log in remotely, I’ve done that about 6-7 times in the almost 3 years I’ve been employed here. We all had company phones but I never had any emails that “needed” a response except when I was drilling the lone well I got approved before prices crashed and the rig got taken away. It has been a pretty awesome setup.
Do Work While at Work
I had a “page a day” desktop calendar by The Onion a few years ago and came across a hilarious article one day that was titled, “Study finds working at work improves productivity”. In true Onion fashion the author of the article seemed shocked that “by simply sitting down and doing work, employees can dramatically increase their output of goods and services.” Are my 2 co-workers bad at working at work, or is it a different mindset that they have where they feel compelled to constantly be working? I have a pretty strong work ethic, but I also like to relax and disconnect from work. I have hobbies, too many hobbies probably, that I like to do. Even doing nothing, I count as a hobby, because it can be hard to do and takes practice to be able to do well. When I’m at the office, I give it my focus, I put in my time and effort, but I love that when it’s the end of the day – or at least mid-afternoon – I can log off the computer, get in my car, and not think about it until the next morning.
Do “Company Men” Exist Anymore?
Of course, then maybe my mindset towards my current and past company is that I see myself as a very disposable cog in the machine. In truth, if I died today, nothing would change at the office. My project would still move forward, and in less than 3 days, it would be back on track like nothing ever happened. I felt like a “company man” when I first started at megacorp, I drank the Kool-Aid and felt like it was family. Then reality hit and I realized that all the extra time I put in, all the hours I took away from my family and gave to the company got returned with nothing. Sure, a paycheck every 2 weeks, but otherwise, no one cared. Whether I worked extra or not, didn’t help my career, in fact, I just got more stuff to do, because I kept meeting crazy short deadlines. It was a horrible cycle.
After seeing thousands of people get laid off over the past 2 years, and especially the business like ruthlessness of it, I can’t say “I’m a company man through and through!” I don’t think that mindset exists anymore in younger folks, but that could be for different reasons. I like my company and am happy to come to work here each day, but if I got laid off today, I wouldn’t take it personally, it’s just business. If I won the lottery, I would show up the next day and then I’d tell everyone goodbye and leave. It’s not that I don’t like work, but I just like life outside of work SO much more.
What about you, what’s your mindset towards working “more than you should be working”? Do you subscribe to the “work while at work and play while at home” philosophy? Does your work require that you’re “on-call” 24/7 so it doesn’t matter where you are? I’d love to hear about it!