Work-Life Balance

imageI’m looking at my breakfast box – cereals and muesli – and wonder where the day disappeared. It’s 9 pm, the breakfast I had scheduled for 9 am, but there it is, waiting untouched. For another morning to come.

I find it mighty amusing how Europe is conversing on shortened work days and excessive work loads needing to be reduced. Where a starting point is 36 – 37 weekly hours. Technically my contract binds me to work from 9 am to 6 pm, which with 1 hour lunch break would make 40 weekly hours. But that’s purely a utopian scenario to  think I’d get my work done in 40 hours. Ha. And that has nothing to do with me lacking efficiency or motivation, quite the opposite. I feel that with the level of motivation and efficiency I’m showing, I keep been given more responsibilities, more roles to fill.

And I’m not complaining. Not at all. Why leave work at 6 pm when you still have important tasks to complete – and are enjoying doing them?

It’s interesting how differently people can think of work, and what a work-private life balance means to us. I highly value my time off, enjoying it to the fullest and cherishing it – there’s not too much of it to for wasting any.

I’m not alone, obviously. One colleague is sitting opposite me, another one keeps sending emails from home. And there are countless others out there doing the same. Eager and motivated, efficient but loaded. Hard-working, hopefully with a reward.

Reducing daily working hours to 6 as France and others have suggested, isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Neither is it automatically a good idea. Thinking that people work better when they have enough leisure time doesn’t equal efficiency at work or higher motivation. Based on my experiences, the motivation to work hard, efficiently and still happily, derives from the pleasures the job itself provides, not from what comes after the day’s work has been finished.

You know you’ve found the right job when you can work 12 hours straight and are not feeling bad about it. That’s not opposing loving your job for 6 hours and no more, either. What’s important, is that we don’t categorize people’s skills, motivation, efficiency and other qualities based on the length of their working day. Many of my Vietnamese colleagues in my previous job were always working very late, but much because they had their best friends at their work place, so it was fun to keep hanging out in the office. They were excellent employees, not because they stayed at the office late but because they provided excellent work quality. Many of the Nordic employees I know, work at full speed for the given 36-37 hours, but oblige of their quiet time after that.

I’ve moved in my working career from 36+ hours to not counting. I’ve seen both extremes. I know intelligent, motivated, skilled people at both ends. What I wish for my future, is that no matter the hours, I would keep enjoying them all. Work-life balance is found in everyone’s own definition of it.



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Outi Annala

A sustainability-enthusiast with a master's degree in social sciences and experienced working for public and private sectors and for an international Non-profit organization. Writing about life and all that matters in living a life to the fullest. Passionate about engaging the private sector to the development work, promoting partnerships between companies and non-profit organizations and initiating discussion and debates. Excited about life and living it to the fullest.

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