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Work Life Balance is Overrated

March 16, 2015

Did I type that out loud? 

It’s not true, right? All companies care about work/life balance. It does no good to burn out your employees. When I entered the workforce in the 1980’s, it was the age of Gordon Gekko, Michael Douglas’s ruthless driven character from 1987’s Wall Street. Bill Gates was the poster child for young, hungry, 100 hour per week tech geeks. 


?(Source Wall Street Journal

We worked like crazy, the stock market was skyrocking so we were all getting rich. If we were married, we bought our wife a big house, and an SUV and told her we’d call her from the office. 

But then in 2000 the stock market crashed and we lost our big houses and fortunes. In 2006 Gates announced he was stepping down to use his billions to save the children of the world and we all realized that there was more to life than ship it dates and an ever running upgrade treadmill. 

We started to slow down a little. The kids had soccer games that we made it to once in a while. We met our neighbors who were also in IT and were starting to get a life. And companies realized that there was value in helping their employees achieve this “work/life” balance. Interesting that the opposite of “work” is “life.” 

I went to work for a new company about a year ago. My job was a typical IT project manager. Then, we added a 700 seat call center in Salt Lake City, and keeping it’s computers running was my responsibility. Then, we built a 500 seat call center in Richmond, VA. Building it was my added to my plate. And when it came online, I owned the IT structure for that one too. And we built a 500 seat call center in Louisville, KY. Building it was added to my plate. And when it came online, I owned the IT structure for that one too.  We’ve added 10 lines of business across the three sites over the past year. And each of them has an IT component. And the IT aspect of them belong to me. And this year we will expand Richmond by a couple hundred seats and look to open a new call center. And those will also be mine to look after the IT needs. 

I’m busy. It’s a surprise if I go through a weekend without getting calls. Last weekend I two calls on Saturday, and one on Sunday. I’ve been gone more than here this year. My weeks average between 50-60 hours with occasional spikes to 70 hours. I have a new manager at work. He’s trying to find time on my schedule to meet with me. So far we’ve found about a 45 minutes. 

This is all wrong. . .right? This is the opposite of that whole work/life balance. Shouldn’t I be complaining? (And make no mistake, this blog post is most definitely NOT complaining.) So, why am I not complaining? Why do I put up with it? 

First, there’s no putting up with it. I really enjoy my job. I get to solve interesting problems. When I do my job well, other people can work. If I do my poorly, lots and lots of people cannot take phone calls. It’s fun. 

But, the hours. Don’t they get too long? Don’t they cut into my “life” side of the balance?

I won’t lie. Yes, the hours can be brutal. I don’t LIKE working from 6:00am – 5:00pm and then coming back into the office for an IT change at 10:00pm to midnight. But, you know what I do like? I like having a job. I LOVE having a job. I’m a pretty good IT guy. I’ve got loads of experience. I got great reviews in my previous job. And then they did layoffs and rather than walk out the door and into a new gig, I spent 13 months pounding the pavement. I went through the severence and most of my savings before I got a job with my current employer.

Would it take me 13 months if I got laid offf tomorrow? Probably not, but at 50 years old, I’m at the point that my age will become an issue. I’ve been in middle management for a long time. It’s where real work gets done, but it’s also a position that is viewed as somewhat interchangable. 

Do you know how you stop being interchangable? You become indespensible. You show that the organization is better with you and without you. And just like an athletic competition, the youth have an advantage. I’ve got experience, but when it comes to getting the work done, experience isn’t going to get the deliverables met. 

Do I expect to work 60 hours for the rest of my career? Probably not. But, for right now, there is work to be done. My new manager suggested I take Friday afternoon off. 

I’ll probably leave around 4:00.

Everyone else will be gone by then. 

I’m sure I’ll have stuff to do.

Just because I leave early doesn’t mean that anyone is going to come in and finish my work. That’s what they hired me for. And I’m glad they did. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 
Follow him on Twitter (@rodneymbliss
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