Don’t Let Work Consume Your Employees’ Lives

Family has always been a priority for me (I would guess most people would say the same thing). All the same, I bought into the Fortune 500 cultural norm of the 1970s through the 2000s: Work hard, give most of your time and energy to the corporation, and you’ll be rewarded. I enjoyed promotion after promotion and the associated benefits (and detriments) that go along with it. Some days were up and some days were down but I kept at it. I appreciated the success I had as a human resources leader. Be that as it may, I was fortunate to have a wife who supported my work ethic and who, in addition to working outside the home, kept our family running. (Do you know that 70% of mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force now, with over 75 percent employed full-time?) But is this the way that the Millennials and Gen Z-ers want to run their careers? Or are you Gen X?

Where do you fall on this work/life continuum?

I’ve worked for international corporations and have experienced how cultural norms with respect to work life balance differ vastly around the world. In certain countries it is not uncommon for employees to log 18 hour days at the office (Nearly a quarter of Japanese companies have employees working more than 80 hours overtime a month); whereas in other countries employers provide significant mid-day breaks and extended summer holiday time.

There is a manager I know who tells her subordinates, “If I repeatedly find you in the office after normal working hours, I will assume one of two things…I am giving you too much work, or that you are not sufficiently competent to do the work which I give to you.”

Certainly there are some industries in which there is no way around working long hours; and frequently the individuals in those jobs understand the demands and accept the rigors whatever they may be. But there is a difference between working late as needed and over working.

After 40+ years in the workforce my advice to leadership clients is to tell your employees to depart the office at a reasonable time, go to a movie or a play, and go visit with family and friends. Likely you, and your company, will immediately see the benefits. My personal experience is that employees who feel they have some control over their work management and personal life become more productive when they are working, and happier while they are doing it. And their lifestyle outside of work provides them with meaningful experiences to bring to the job.

What are your thoughts? If you’re an experienced or aspiring leader in the Berkshires, Fairfield County, Columbia County or NYC, let me know if you’d like to grow. I’d love to help you.