Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nervous breakdown or work life balance? A no-brainer.

Ok, so my summer holidays are nearly over. Back to work tomorrow.


Most of the time, I rather enjoy my job. But what I don't enjoy is the time it takes away from my family. Like most reasonably senior staff-managementy type jobs, to do it properly takes more time than your regular 38-hour week. Time I don't have.

This, coupled with the fact that I stupidly thought I could do it in a four-day week, has led recently to what I like to call my "mid-life crisis period".

There I was, fitting more than five days into four, plus commuting two hours a day and working at home at nights and weekends (and taking phone calls/checking emails on days off). Meanwhile my work was suffering and I was letting down my staff, my boss, my family and my friends. And myself.

The breaking point came when my boss voiced her disapproval of some work I had completed for her. Work that was, admittedly, substandard. I had no excuse, except the aforementioned craziness of my schedule.

The floodgates opened and, if I didn't think I was stressed before that conversation, I was left in no doubt afterwards.

Anyway, I have a fantastic boss and we have come to an arrangement to let me step aside from my substantive role to do a two-day a week project job for the next few months, while I also supplement my income with some freelance work. I then need to either go back to my job, the job they employed me to do, or leave. Fair enough I say.

Which brings me, finally, to my point. I am lucky, I have a wonderful, understanding boss and I work in the public sector, which is pretty flexible. It helps that the agency that employs me is also responsible for the State Strategic Plan's work life balance target. I also have a husband who encourages me to take the odd leap of faith and who isn't bothered by the sudden drop in my income.

But my situation made me think about all those people who are stuck - for financial or other reasons - in jobs that are causing them stress and impacting on their families. Work life balance has been a catchcry for a decade or so, but how realistic is it for the large percentage of employers - and employees - who work outside the comfort of the public sector (or a large corporation)? Can small business operators afford to offer their staff this elusive dream? Can most wage slaves afford to take a cut in their pay?

And now a shout out to Emma Grey, who tackles these issues daily as director of WorkLifeBliss. If you need some balance - or are a business owner wanting to know how to attract and retain talented staff - you need to check out what she offers.

Meanwhile, I am going to enjoy my last day of holidays. The baby is asleep right now, but when she wakes up, it's off to the park to soak up some sunshine and play on the swings.

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