Treat people as human beings, give them that flexibility and I don’t think they’ll abuse it.
Those are the words of billionaire businessman Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. Last September, Branson implemented a new policy in his company, granting Virgin employees unlimited vacation.
We live in a society that is driven by money. The majority of the population works to put food on the table, pay their bills, and save for their children’s college fund. Vacation is viewed as a perk, and to the more capitalistic, money-hungry individuals like Ben Affleck in The Boiler Room, it is a concept that is ridiculed and brushed off. In the cutthroat world of dollars, personal time off is insignificant; work-life balance is an afterthought.
Work-life balance – it’s a term that maintains its relevance in this country as long as Corporate America continues to push its workforce into excessive hours, all for the mighty dollar. Let’s analyze this term a bit further: “Work” refers to employment, career, and making money; “Life” refers to health, relationships, and pleasure.
The term “Work-Life balance” itself implies that the two are mutually exclusive, but are they?
There’s no doubt that people need to work, and those of us that are currently employed should feel a bit of gratitude that someone is willing to pay us, period. The value of hard work shouldn’t be discounted; Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all. Furthermore, the backbone of our civilization is built on the workforce of less glamorous professions: farmers, dishwashers, garbage men, janitors, etc.
As individuals, however, what do we want our lives to be? Will work always be “work”? Are we content to be weekend warriors? Will every week start off with a case of the Mondays?
It has been a few months shy of ten years that I have worked a full-time, 40-hour work-week office job. In my world, work-life balance meant not thinking about my job when I’m not in the office and earning money so that I can do what I want on the weekends. It’s as if I’ve been living two lives: the cubicle-saddled white collar life during the week and the leisurely social life during the weekends. I’m realizing more and more that having one life is more than enough to handle.
It comes back to time. How are we spending our days? What are we striving for? Someone from an older generation may view a person like me as soft and weak, just a complainer about having an unfulfilling profession. We need to earn money to provide for our families, and a man who doesn’t have his own family is not a real man, they may say. But should that be the goal?
Earn a paycheck, have a retirement plan, buy a house – this is money, this is value. Now in my thirties, I’m beginning to see something else that has value: time. We may usually feel like we’re running out of money, but there is no question that we are slowly running out of time, eventually having none left.
Work-life balance – it’s a horrible term. I’d rather find a way to blend the two together instead of balancing them as separate entities.