I'm troubled. In my post on the new normal, I felt that many of us have become employees that are too worried about keeping their jobs to even think about themselves and their work-lives. Just keep your head low, do your job well and not rock the boat about going to a kid's soccer game or shifting work hours. Not good.
We know that technology enables us to be always working and I see that as an enabler to good work-life balance. The question is whether you are always under pressure to be available and responsive to your boss. It seems now as if the urgency of responsiveness is expected vs. it being that extra effort. Who is in control of your time?
Let me first say that for much of my latter career I was a bit of a workaholic. But at that point, my children were a bit older and we had a developed working family routine for two working parents with a good support structure. I chose this as I was becoming more visible and felt I was advancing to becoming an executive. I also felt that there was a reasonable give and take in terms of my commitment to the business and what I was given back in current (and hopefully future) compensation. I managed my work-life balance staying up late doing email, instant messaging with colleagues, etc. That said, when I was fairly senior and I saw a more junior person online, I would pressure them to get off the system and spend time with their family
Don't we all want to advance our careers and shouldn't we be pushing, pushing all the time? I don't think so. Be excellent at it all - in balance. Do a great job at work but make sure you have boundaries. If you are relatively junior in the business, you should not be indispensable. Don't answer your phone when you are on vacation. Don't work every evening. Work your family.
Look, work will ebb and flow and you will be putting in extraordinary time commitments at times. But if this is becoming a habit, then you need to think about what treadmill you have jumped onto and if this is what you really want. There is no wrong answer—just be thoughtful about where you are in life and what the ramifications of your work decisions will be outside of work.
A colleague of mine went away with family for a few days and left his laptop at home. He knew what was he had to get done and that he'd get it done on time. He also knew that having his laptop would be too great a temptation to disengage from what was more important—his family. Well done!
With good communications around expectations of what it due and when and what the expectations of your availability should be, it should still be a win-win where your employer wins with you as an employee and you win on work-life.
Remember that it's not a matter of flipping the bird at your management chain to find your balance. At least not while they can see.
Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives. (I found great pictures of all men or all women, but not a mixed pool. That, in itself, is kind of interesting.)