We’ve all heard this from friends.
I feel XYZ way about my work / life balance.
I’ve realized for me work life balance or whatever its called, is less about how much I work, its about flexibility, I’d rather work 50–60 hours a week and be able to work from Rio for 3–4 hours a day and spend the rest chilling with the fam then to have a 40 hour a week job where I “run out of vacation days” or can’t work remotely for 2–6 hours a day for 2 weeks if that is how I achieve balance.
I find that running a company, can suck hours out of your life in ways you’ll never realize until its too late.
3 reasons why talking about work life balance with team members is difficult
1 — It’s very individualized. One person's work life balance is another persons BORING job, and vice versa. So as a manger, make people define work life balance in detail, is it about the # of hours? It is about the type of projects? Is someone OK working a 50 hour week, as long as 10 of those hours are work from home? Some people need 8 small vacations, others need 1 long stretch for 3 weeks to recharge.
2 — It’s a moving target. When I was in my early 20’s working a 55 to 65 hour week (on occasion) was fine. I enjoyed moving up in my career fast. I saw marketing as a contact sport, the more I worked the more I learned, the more learned, the more tests I ran, I would have a larger library to pull from. When I finally landed a job that didn’t reward me for working over 40 hours, I sought out volunteering to fill the space. I didn’t know how to just work 40 hours a week, that was boring. People’s life stages change, if you asked me what balance was in my 20’s it was different than today. If you asked me 2 weeks before my first son was born my definition of balance would be different.
3 — It’s mushy and rarely data driven. One of the biggest issues I have, is like any life goal, you need to know when you’ve achieved your “enough”. That is one reason alone to track your hours like a hawk, it helps you to look back with a clearer head, it helps you avoid recency bias. How do you know when you have achieved work life balance? What early warning signals will tell you you are falling out of balance? Do you have an early burn out warning signal?
I challenged myself…if I had to only have 2 metrics one to determine work balance one to determine life balance, what would they be?
In that way I can see if I am fulfilling my work effort in harmony or at the expense of my life side of the equation.
So my metrics are Revenue & the # of Months where I have spent more than 5 nights away from the family. Its an early warning signal that I might not be getting the life part of the work life equation.
Let’s take revenue (and revenue where we make a profit revenue, not we’re growing revenue, but aren’t making profit crap! I hate making that the number, but if I only have 1 metric, then if revenue is right a lot of other things in the business just work. Now I recognize that it’s wholly possible to hit revenue in an Enron, Wells Fargo, or Uber kind of way — I’m going to assume that we’re not doing that.
If revenue is trending in the right direction (especially if that revenue growth is coming mostly from referrals), So many other thing are possible:
We can have office space that we can leave unused for community events (fulfills my desire to impact our community).
We can take more risks / innovate — this helps us grow, but also gives people new opps to grow in their careers at Seer.
We can become more competitive w/ the kinds of raises and bonuses that hopefully help people feel valued by distributing more of our profits.
The other metric, time away from the family…
How many days in a month is too many away from my family? Well that # for me is 5, here is about how that came to be. But ultimately you can see that in almost 3 years I’ve only had 2 months where I went to 6 days in a month, 1 month where I was at 5. (Note this was done before my last 2 months, which I was at 5 & 6, prompting me to write this post on trimming back to only 5–6 international conferences next year vs going through 7 in Q4 alone). See its my early warning signal before life gets out of balance.
What metrics make you proud. Don’t answer just think. Is it $, rev, profit, streams, views, followers? This is why I try hard to not get wrapped up in vanity metrics…
Work life balance is hard to discuss as long as we can’t define it and put metrics on it. These metrics are far from perfect (aren’t they all)… but they do serve as an early warning signal that maybe something is out of whack, if you had to have only 2 metrics what would yours be?