Work-life balance and why work is not the enemy of life
15th May 2017 | Blog
By Henry Brodie, Development Manager
Work-life balance is a concept that is often brought up. Being in recruitment we’re obviously exposed more than most to the concept as our candidates mention it frequently when they talk about their current situation (and usually their cold buttons) and it’s not uncommon for us to bring up with regards to ourselves. Discussions around work-life balance have become so commonplace that we don’t often stop to think what it actually means: What would balance look like? What is the life we really want? For many work-life balance means being able to leave the office at 6pm but I would question if that is really what we want from life. I would further question why work is the enemy of life.
Everyone has different goals for which they are aiming and for most of us, work is part of how we are going to achieve those goals. Whether it’s owning property, having financial security for your family or being able to afford a couple of nice holidays per year most of the things we want to do will cost us money. The basic needs we have such as a flat to rent and the food we need to survive need to be paid for (unless you’re a squatting freegan obviously) so at the most fundamental level it is impossible to separate work from life. So it’s often tempting to see work as a necessary evil, something we have to do but would rather avoid. However, that’s before we take into account the level of quality of those activities which will obviously increase the costs.
At this point work isn’t the enemy of life, it’s the enabler of life. Work is how we achieve the life we desire to the level of quality we desire. We’re also very fortunate in that at NonStop we work in a meritocratic environment. What we can achieve from work is directly proportional to the amount of effort we put in and the fruits of our labour are much more visible to us. One may have to ‘sacrifice’ leaving work at 6pm occasionally or work through lunch but the benefits of doing so can mean upgrading to a 5-star hotel, travelling business class, moving into that flat a month (maybe even a year) earlier, a nicer flat, a better part of town…
When these outputs are taken into context you realise that the ‘sacrifices’ you are making aren’t sacrifices at all, they are just the stepping stones to living the life you really want to live. It’s an investment on our part. It’s the investment everyone needs to make and we are free to invest in any way we choose but that will obviously affect how quickly we can reap the rewards of that investment. There are plenty of careers out there in which you can leave at 6pm every day without having to take anything home with you. But there aren’t many jobs that can, without that investment, offer high rewards; continued learning and development opportunities; and the chance to really make a difference in people’s lives.
I was recently asked if I was looking forward to going to work (it was a Monday so fair play, a pretty standard question) but to me that’s always been a really weird question. I’ve never really thought about work from that perspective – though for reference, recruitment is a heck of a lot more enjoyable than insurance or network administration where I worked before! But I’ve always enjoyed my role because it’s always challenged me and it’s allowed me to experience the life I’ve wanted to. Now I’m on a path which will require me to make many more “sacrifices” along the way but the financial security it’ll give me will mean I never have to worry about money again and will most likely let me retire early. To me that’s well worth missing lunch, even as someone who really loves the work that they do (despite what my face usually seems to suggest).
I would encourage everyone to do a simple exercise with themselves. Consider what you really want from life.
When you think of yourself as satisfied or successful, what does look like? How does it feel?
Now think about what you would need to get to that point. Most often it will need to include a certain level of earnings, an amount of personal development, getting to a certain point in your career, a combination of all of these things and and maybe some other factors. Once you have that rough goal and some of the steps along the way think about how your career will fit into it. Will increasing the effort you put in allow you to achieve the life you want in a shorter time span? If the answer is yes then putting in those extra hours isn’t detracting from your work-life balance, it’s creating it by delivering the life you want to live.
Like everyone else you’ll also have things you want to do along the way and work shouldn’t stop you from doing them either. If you find that you’re in that position, you need to put your hand up and ask for help.
It may be the case that there is such a large discrepancy between what you want (and can afford) to do right now and making the investment for your future life. You know what? That’s absolutely fine and for a lot of people that’s what will make them truly happy so you should absolutely go for it but that does mean it’ll be quite difficult here. You may be cutting yourself off from a lot of other career options so I think that’s worth weighing up how many of those things really are crucial and how much more important than your future they are.
When you consider the amount of time you spend in work it should be something you enjoy, not resent. Clients and candidates want to deal with people who enjoy what they are doing. It comes across in the levels of customer service they receive and it’s one thing that will keep them coming back for more business. The more you enjoy your work the more attentive you will be to candidates and clients, the further you will go to help them, they will both have a much more positive experience when they deal with you and there will be a happier more lively interaction whenever you speak to them. Try to make everyone you deal with feel important and they will start to feel that way; it’s a cornerstone of good customer service!
That doesn’t end with just our candidates and clients though. How much more motivating is it to be surrounded by people who are on top form? I know I thrive on it! On the flip side, how demotivating is it when it feels like everyone around you has given up. So spare a thought for your neighbours. They may be having a tough day and your energy, enthusiasm and encouragement could be all they need to pull themselves out of it. Create the atmosphere that will drive you and your colleagues to constantly be awesome.
I once read a quotation to the effect of “Most people look for success in work to make them happy. In reality happiness in work will make you successful”. In my opinion it’s really hard to come to work in an organisation such as ours and not feel lucky. Sure the hours can sometimes get long (though not as much as a doctor and we can easily earn more than a lot of doctors), it can be frustrating (though I’d wager teaching is probably worse) but the RoI is fantastic. As long as you put the right levels of energy into it this is a career that will pay out massive dividends within a very small amount of time.
For me the first step in starting to enjoy work is realising that it’s what lets you achieve everything you want to in life and the more you put in (especially at NonStop) the more you will get out. So if you find yourself hating Mondays I would implore, beseech and challenge you to really think about what you’re really doing. Because I think you deserve an awesome future, you should invest wisely in it.
And if you decide that your future is with us – let us know here!