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Seek Work-Life Balance in the Long Term

Working Time

Let’s explore how to find a balance between life ad work.

I viewed work order in a much more idealist and perfectionist way in my first years of entering business life after university. I was a good student. And I wanted to be a good employee. I was going to learn the requirements of my job, do my best, and exceedingly fulfil my share of the contract between the company and myself. I was fully ready to work hard and endeavour. Moreover, I wanted to be useful in my workplace.

I had only one demand in return for all these: I expected the other side to meet the obligations in the contract I signed with my company, and to respect the fact that it is a mutual agreement. Also I expected the other side to show the same respect and sensibility to the contract in using my time as I showed in not working less in some periods and not asking for a different salary in others.

I learnt the hard way that some overtime work is inevitable as I got to figure out how business works, the lack of structure in business culture, the last-minuteness and the eleventh hour. But I had to admit that something was wrong when it became the norm to work overtime for 3-4 hours every day and dealing with work in the weekends.

My intention here is not to denigrate the employers. I have worked in four companies and listened to the work stories of thousands of people when involved in hiring professionally; the problem is not indigenous to one or two companies.

How Did I Change my Point of View?

  1. I realized every game has written and unwritten rules.

It might not be obligatory to make a block in backgammon; yet you must learn it well and put it to good practice if you want to win.

Business life similarly moves on two axes: That of contracts, agreements and legal sanctions; and the other of culture, morals, tradition, hierarchy and power-relations whose proof will be in the pudding. The rights and responsibilities defined to the worker in the first axis may be different than the ones defined int he second axis. It is a dead-end denying the ones on the second axis as “nonsense”. Even though we cannot fully adapt to the second axis, we need to understand and respect its workings. Its rules are as real and realistic as the others.

  1. I thought I can take more if I cannot give less.

An employer can measure the total benefit his employee brings to him by materializing it through criteria such as giro or sale increase. An employee, however, should think about not only his salary, insurance and vested benefits but also calculate the network, know-how, personal development opportunities and experience he will gain from the workplace.

You might not be very successful in raising the base value of the salary in the bargain of the business proposal with the employer; and you might end up giving more than you get if you are in the business only for financial gain. Yet if you attain from the business not only financial gain but also the benefits I have listed above, you will have guaranteed that you will be profiting even if you inevitably give more.

I thought this way too. I got to realize that whatever business I do, the employers will expand the boundaries of the agreement and will want to get more than they give. And so I chose businesses that will bring know-how, experience that is difficult to get from other businesses and opportunities for personal development along with money. In this way I increased my gains even though I did not decrease my givings, making contracts more balanced.

  1. I realized one needs to seek balance in life for long term, not short.

This has been the most important thought in my change of mind. I gave up seeking balance in my life in artificial time periods of 24 hours or 7 days. The dream of splitting the 24 hours equally into 8 hours of entertainment, relaxation and work simply did not work. Similarly, the goal of working efficiently for 5 days and having a fulfilled weekend did not stick as well. I tried finding balance in more long-term time periods. I used the more relaxed 2 weeks that followed a 2-month of intense work as an advantage. In one of my jobs, after one year of working in high density, I worked in a more calm work pace for the following 6 months.

Does a tree grow at the same pace in every season?

Surely not. It holds on in cold days, thrives in spring, sheds leaves in fall and prepares for winter.

Even nature involves seasonality within itself. If we were apply the expectation of getting a perfect work-life balance in every day of the week, every single day would have to be the ideal of 23 degrees. Yet we know that is not the case. The winters are colder than we would wish, and the summers warmer.

Similarly, whether you work in corporation or individually in your business life; there will be some days that you will have to work your fingers to the bone just as there will be others when you will get bored of idleness.

In short, think as long-term as possible instead of aiming short when seeking the balance between work and private life. The more you manage to think long-term, the more you can increase the possibility of creating conditions for receiving back the sacrifices you have made. If you are in a job in which you give more than you receive, you can find the correct route best by thinking long-term.



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