Working to live or living to work?

Trying to achieve the correct work-life balance can often feel like a minefield. Juggling the pressures of meeting work deadlines and family life often means we don’t even give it a second thought, and if we do, it’s a conversation with ourselves shrouded in scepticism and idealism. But, why does achieving this balance seem so elusive to us?

Elon Musk is Faltering

To give an insight into the ‘never-ending’ work day, we look towards Elon Musk of Tesla and his commitment to working a 120-hour-week, as reported by The Independent. Companies all over the world look to Elon Musk and the tech giants of Silicon Valley for changes to implement into their working culture, regardless if they are a tech company or not. Elon Musk is perceived as the innovator with all the answers for a ‘cooler’ and better working culture – from onsite gyms to inclusive staff meals, he is used as the yardstick to which other companies feel they need to follow. Many have called on Musk to lighten his obscene work schedule, but he has refuted these suggestions and simply stated that he has no choice but to work these hours to keep his beloved Tesla competitive and profitable. While his level of commitment is admirable, one can only wonder about the negative impact of working such hours on his body and mind, not to mention his relationship with his six children!

Musk piloted the ‘unending’ workday where the usual 9 to 5 template has been well and truly torn up. This concept may not be explicitly rolled out across UK workplaces, but there has been an undeniable shift towards that direction. We are now encouraged to start earlier, work later and answer emails and client calls well into our evenings at home. So, as the world of work becomes more intrusive into our personal lives, what impact will this have on us? Musk can boast of Tesla being only one of two American car companies to make profit in the last year, but was it worth him missing his own birthday? His stubbornness and excruciatingly long work days have led to bizarre twitter outbursts, obvious signs of fatigue in public, and even the assertion that one of the rescuers in the Thai Cave saga was a paedophile.

A few years ago, the BBC reported on a Google employee named Brandon, who has taken this trend to new heights. He decided to buy a van, park it in the Google staff car park and live out the back of it… yes, you heard that correctly. He showers, eats and works out inside the Google building so has no need for anything more than a bed and clothes rack in his humble abode. While Brandon claims this was done to swerve extortionate rent prices and save over 80% of his monthly salary, it is the relentless work environment that Google and other tech giants perpetuate, that has made a young software engineer from Massachusetts living in the back of a Ford van, in his employer’s car park, a viable option.

Striving for Work-Life Harmony

Yes, there will be occasions when we must make ourselves available for an early morning meeting or a one-off client call in the evening, but this should not be the norm. By making this the accepted way of doing things, you open the door to more regular folk enlisting extreme measures like Brandon just to stay on top of work demands. Accounting giant PwC has announced this week that new recruits can effectively work when they want, which can include anything from shorter weekly working hours, to only working for a few months a year. They believe this will help dispel the myth that working for a large accounting firm is ‘non-stop’, attract a more diverse workforce as well as giving them the competitive advantage.

The benefits of having a healthy work-life balance are exponential. Maintaining this balance will not only improve an employee’s health and relationships, but it will also lead to them being more productive, less prone to making errors and having increased mindfulness – all of which can only be perceived as inherent positives for an employer.

Work-Life Balance Initiatives:

  • Don’t encourage the answering of work emails/phone calls outside of work hours
  • Committed to finishing an hour early on a Friday so employees can make the most of their weekend
  • Encouraging the possibility of working from home, where possible
  • Create a family-friendly work environment because what’s more important than family?
  • Invest in team building exercises/team socials to foster a community atmosphere
  • Childcare services/support
  • Allow schedule flexibility
  • Create a quiet/exercise space within the office
  • Be the change you want your employees to embrace

Tweet us at @otbtweeter with the methods your workplace has chosen to employ to improve your work-life balance.

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