I took advantage of this long weekend to do some catching up on my Ted Talks. For those of you who do not know what I’m talking about – you’re sorely missing out (http://www.ted.com/talks). I’ve been a regular watcher of these short, idea sharing lectures since a friend referred me to them several years ago, but this weekend I happened upon one talk that I found particularly interesting by Nigel Marsh.
Marsh has written several books exploring the sometimes controversial subject of work/life balance and encourages his audience to face our cultural reality:
“Certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged on a day to day basis with a young family.”
The purpose of this entry is not to agree or disagree with Marsh – but rather to explore why work/life balance is so often ignored, not only by modern companies, but also by modern workers. Why does our culture provide praise for the habits displayed by developing workaholics, while we look down on those who leave the office early to care for their other responsibilities? When it comes to work/life balance, it’s usually the evil corporations that get blamed for overworking their employees – but when it comes down to it, aren’t corporations simply a collection of workers, each if whom has a family and personal responsibilities of their own?
It seems to me that “more work is better” is somehow baked into the psyche of the American worker, but is that even true? Being a true believer in the liberal arts, I honestly believe the overall quality of our collective work would improve if we we took 10% of our working time and devoted it to something totally outside the realm of our day to day responsibilities. For instance, I studied art in college – if I were able to take 10% of my working time and devote it to art, I believe that I would, in aggregate, provide incremental value to my organization that far exceeds the value lost by setting aside time for the arts.
I do agree with Marsh on the force that drives our work/life issues, which is how we evaluate a successful life. For us to really improve our work and our lives we need to change the popularly held belief that those who win in life are those who have the most money when they die.