Unplugging 1 night a week: Surprising benefits of work-life balance

Posted on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 @ 11:04 AM

benefits of work life balanceGo to any restaurant on Friday night and look around. What do you hear? The clamor of the kitchen, maybe. The occasional clanking of silverware or a server taking orders. What do you hear less and less of? A steady stream of conversation between patrons. Instead, they browse Facebook, others check email or text. Many of us do this out of habit or for pleasure, but those of us with high-stakes careers often stay connected because we feel we have to.

Technology is transforming the workplace and though there are hundreds of books that aim to “help” professionals cope with the demands of work and reap the benefits of work-life balance, few really look at the issue in a critical way. Once exception to the pile is a recent book by Leslie A. Perlow called Sleeping with Your Smartphone. While we don’t have the space to summarize her work here, we do want to share the results of a study she conducted in 2007 with The Boston Consulting Group.

Unplugging 1 night a week: The surprising benefits of work-life balance

The purpose of the study was to measure the impact of completely disconnecting from work for just one night a week—that meant no email, no texting, no phone calls. Owens calls this complete disconnection “Predictable Time Off” (PTO). Before we reveal the results of the study, you might find it interesting to know that of the 1,600 managers Perlow studied,

  • 92 percent reported putting in 50 or more hours of work a week (this doesn’t even account for the 25 hours a week they spent monitoring their work when they “weren’t working”)
  • 70 percent admitted to checking their smartphone each day within an hour after getting up
  • 56 percent checked their smartphone an hour before going to bed
  • 48 percent checked over the weekend
  • 51 percent checked continuously when they were “on vacation”
  • 26 slept with their cell phones (we’re not exactly sure what this means)

What did Owens find and what does it have to do with the benefits of work-life balance? Those teams who participated in PTO (as opposed to those who did not) were much more likely to rate their overall satisfaction with work and work-life positively. Here are some numbers for perspective:

  • 51 percent (versus 27 percent) reported that they were excited to start work in the morning
  • 72 percent (versus 49 percent) reported being satisfied with their job
  • 54 percent (versus 38 percent) were satisfied with their work-life balance

The study also revealed that those on “PTO teams” found the work process to be collaborative, efficient, and effective. Here are some more numbers for perspective:

  • 91 percent (versus 76 percent) considered their team to be collaborative
  • 74 percent (versus 51 percent) rated their team as doing everything it could to be effective
  • 58 percent (versus 40 percent) were more likely to see themselves at the firm for the long term
  • 95 percent (versus 84 percent) were more likely to perceive that they were providing significant value to their clients

The results are rather stunning, aren’t they? As compelling as they are, Perlow argues that getting employees to disengage is not an individual problem; it’s something that needs to be addressed and fully-endorsed by leadership. You can find an interview with Leslie Perlow in the January 2013 edition of HR Magazine.

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Topics: Graduate Programs for Human Resources, Human Resource Management, Human Resources Master Programs, career success, career burnout, benefits of work life balance

Avoid career burnout with these 5 dos and don’ts

Posted on Wed, Jan 02, 2013 @ 11:01 AM

career burnoutIf you Googled “career burnout” and managed to find yourself reading this, chances are that you’re probably experiencing it—at least to some degree. They are many widely-accepted beliefs about career satisfaction and career burnout. It just so happens that most of them—“be your own brand,” “establish a healthy work-life balance,” and so on—are little more than institutionalized clichés. We’d like to offer 5 Dos and Don’ts to help you rethink the way you approach career wealth.

Avoid career burnout with these 5 dos and don’ts

Do focus on substance—not style.

“Be your own brand” is one of the most ubiquitous career success clichés. It’s also one of the most toxic. Why? Because it suggests that you should spend your time shaping what others think of you instead of honing your craft or creating something substantial.  

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” There’s a lot of truth to this. Look closely at people who have made a lasting impression. Look at those who have built something substantive, timeless and meaningful. Their legacy didn’t come from primping an image.  

Don’t rely on the company to take care of you
Many of us are lucky to work with people who share a same common goal and are surrounded by colleagues and administration that look out for us and help us develop our skill set. Many more don’t have this support. Even the best companies aren’t paternalistic—and even if they wanted to be, they know that this not a self-sustaining model for success. Here’s where you come in: Don’t expect the company to take care of you and for goodness sakes, stop waiting for them to make decisions for you.

Instead, figure out how you can use your passion and creativity inside the organization and how you can pursue better opportunities within (or outside) the company.

Do take note of how the politics work—then avoid them like the plague
We told you not to spend your energy branding yourself. Why then are we suggesting that you take note of the office politics? The answer is twofold: First, because no workplace is immune from them. Second, because hard work alone is not sufficient; you also have to know how to successfully negotiate the social structure.  

Your main focus should be on honing your talent (first), knowing how to navigate the politics (second) and staying apolitical (third).

Don’t buy into the work-life balance hubbub
The dash between “work” and “life” dates the phrase because it subscribes to the notion that “work” and “life” are distinct from one another.

Albert Camus once said, “Without work, all life goes rotten…” He makes a good point. Work is an inextricable part of life.

Work is life. Life is work.

Without one the other becomes meaningless. Camus also said, “but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.” He makes a good point about that too. That’s why we need to ensure that our work lives are aligned with our passions. We can’t tell you how to make this happen. What we can tell you, however, is that if we are not living while we are at work, there’s a good chance that life will stifle and die.

Do think critically, ask questions and remain inquisitive
To avoid the office politics and keep your job, you have to sweetly and naively say “yes” to everything. Wrong. Being a “yea-sayer” has costly limitations. Why? Because it paints you as someone who accepts blind obedience over critical thinking.

The most valuable employees ask questions when they don’t understand something so that they can complete the task with passion and creativity. Healthy workplace environments brought you on because you had something they needed; because you have a talent and perspective they don’t.

We’re not suggesting you pull out the trumpet or that you become defiant. We’re simply saying to choose your battles wisely, ask questions, share your measured perspective and remain a critical thinker.


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Topics: Human Resource Management, Human Resources Master Programs, career success, career burnout

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