The Work/Life Balance

Companies toss this around all the time. The folks in HR love to tell potential hires they are proud of their company’s work/life balance making it sound like every manager will accommodate your outside interests.

In my experience those companies that tout having a work/life balance don’t have it and those that do seldom refer to it. I’ve found that it usually comes down to my direct manager who determines this. If the manager lives a balanced life, he’s probably a lot more likely to allow his reports to do the same.

I thought about this topic over the weekend after reading this post from Jason Calacanis where he wrote the following under the title: How to save money running a startup

Fire people who are not workaholics … come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it–go work at the post office or Starbucks if you’re not into it you want balance in your life. For realz.

I saw Jason speak at Gnomedex last year and normally agree with many of his ideas. Like Dave Winer, he’s one of the few web celebrities who makes me think. Jason has started and ran several successful startups I’m sure his opinions on this topic will be taken to heart by other CEOs trying to push their companies to succeed. So I was disappointed to hear him say this having worked at two startups myself. Yet today I notice that Jason has updated this post to now read:

Fire people who are not workaholics. don’t love their work… come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it–go work at the post office or Starbucks if you’re not into it you want balance in your life. For realz.

This is a much better way put across the idea that if you’re starting a company you’d better hire people who are passionate about their work. They may have families, friends and the like but they better be so into their job that they don’t stop thinking of ways to contribute or ways to make the company better. I have a few employees who work for me now who send me emails late at night and on weekends when they come across a new process or technology that might help us take better care of our clients. I love when this happens because I know they are thinking of ways to make our company a better place to work. The job isn’t just a 9-5 thing for them.

I’ve worked with colleagues who were probably disgusted with me at those times I took off to be at a school play or to tend to a sick child. I’m sure they have called me a slacker, but I don’t care. I feel I bring valuable skills to my job that I didn’t possess until I had children. As a manager, these experiences help me relate to those on my team who are going through challenges at home. Who wants to work with those who have few interests outside of their job anyway?

We need to focus on the work a person produces rather than the number of hours he/she spends in the office.

37Signals blog chimes in with “Fire the Workaholics”

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