Caught in the work-life balance trap


I give up. I am six months into a new job at a company that publicly promotes its "work-life balance" policies, and I am right back to where I was when I left my old job. I am working 70 hours a week, on conference calls to Asia at 10:00 pm, answering emails all weekend. I am beginning to think that there is no hope! Do I need another new job?

Alex G, New York

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Cali Williams Yost's Answer:

Hold on, Alex! Don't resign yet. Contrary to what you might be feeling at the moment, there is hope. The good news is that you work for an organization that has said it supports "work-life balance." What that means is that the organization's culture is one that will be more likely to support a conversation with you about what type of work+life "fit" meets your needs as well as the needs of the business.

That's right—the company will have a conversation with you. It can't give you the answer. And that's the first realization people need to make. In today's 24/7, high-tech, global workplace, employers can't tell employees where the boundaries around work begin and end. It can only partner with you to determine those boundaries in a mutually-beneficial way.

Here's an example: Obviously, you have responsibilities that require you to communicate with Asia periodically. This is one of your unique work realities. What if on the days you have a 10:00 pm conference call with Asia, you leave work at 4:00 pm, and then call in from home and work from 10:00 pm to 12:00 a.m. Or if you aren't a morning person, maybe you can arrive at work later the next morning.

But your manager is never going to come to your desk and say, "Hey, Alex, I've noticed you are having some late evening calls with Asia, and I know you aren't a morning person. Why don't you come in later the next day whenever you have one of those calls."

Unless you say something, your manager is going to assume everything is fine.

The truth is that unless you say something, your manager is going to assume everything is fine. And trust me, she would rather you say something than have you become so frustrated that you leave.

Start by looking at your work realities, including technology demands, and your personal realities. Think about what your "fit" might look like. Then, say something! The worst thing that can happen is your manager says, "no," and you're no worse off than you were. But that is most likely not going to happen.

Notice that I didn't use the word "balance." If you want to do one thing to help yourself, stop using the word "balance." Immediately! Instead think of the objective as work+life "fit" or the way work "fits" into your life given your unique work and personal circumstances.

Everyone has a different set of realities; therefore, everyone has a different "fit." Focusing on "balance" only makes you frustrated at what you don't have. Finding your unique "fit" helps you see the possibilities of what you could have.

So, Alex instead of hopping, and jumping between jobs to find "balance" that know one can give you, take advantage of your current employer's willingness to address the topic and set the wheels in motion to find your mutually-beneficial work+life "fit."


About our Expert

Cali Williams Yost
Cali Williams Yost

Cali Williams Yost is president and founder of Work+Life Fit, Inc, a company dedicated to empowering individuals to strategically manage the way work fits into their lives.