A different approach to work-life balance
A recent Globe and Mail article on vacation time caught my eye. In it, Elizabeth Renzetti notes an ADP Canada study that found that:
- only one in three employees take all their allotted vacation time each year
- 28 per cent take less than half of their allotted time; and
- nearly one-third of people admit to working during their holidays.
Renzetti points to a number of possible reasons for this – from affordability to holding multiple jobs, to the fear that our employer will realize we’re dispensable if we’re gone and work life carries on. It’s complicated, but for whatever reason, it seems that we North American workers aren’t as good as our European counterparts (who have much more generous vacation laws) at taking time off. As a result, the notion of work/life balance tilts strongly in favour of work.
Stop stressing – return to your roots
I think the work/life balance needs a new metaphor – and that’s the work/life tapestry. As a farming society 200 years ago, there was no separation of work life and personal life. You lived and worked on the farm and almost all of your life was based there. The change began in the industrial revolution when factory work created a clear separation between a work life and a home life.
What technology is doing is bringing us closer to our agrarian roots. The separation is blurring, and for many of us, is once again non-existent. We can fight it – and try to recapture that separation – or we can accept it and support it. Personally, I think the smart answer is to accept and support it because this is a change that I think is as inevitable as the change brought about by the industrial revolution.
Yes, employers can play a key role in supporting this tapestry, by providing employees with the flexibility and support they may need to address other issues that are happening in their life. But employees have a role too in accepting that our personal lives will sometimes creep into our work, and vice versa. Rather than stress about the fact that you need to take a morning on your Tuscan vacation to join a telephone conference, embrace the fact that technology now enables us to phone a client in the morning and bike the hills of Italy in the afternoon.
Perhaps we’d all take a little more time off if we worried a little less about crossing work/life boundaries and embraced a tapestry approach.