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Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

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Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:19 pm

Hey Forum -- hope everyone has a celebration in mind today for Valentines Day. We'll be enjoying a few hours of extra time off today, and a nice meal at a local gourmet restaurant. I guess I'm a traditionalist, because a large bouquet of roses sits on our dining room table. Corny? Yes. Appreciated? Indeed.

I wrote an article for today and it's now on the SC.org link, http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2018/02/find-your-sweet-spot-work-life-balance. My thought is that this should be a topic of discussion on the forum as well. The balance between work life and the rest of your life is critical to personal success and also to health. I'm suffering now because of too many years in my early career focused on work, work, work. I don't want our young audience to reach that same conclusion.

What is it that the senior members of this forum discussion do to keep their balance in check? Does your employer cooperate, or is the drive to results pushing people beyond their limit? Can a person remain useful and when does burnout set in?

For the more junior members of the audience, does Work/Life Balance even enter the picture for you in the job search? Which do you think has the most balance -- an academic career, or an industry career?

Thanks,

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“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”- Alain de Botton
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Re: Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby PG » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:01 pm

I just got home from a late dinner with the management team and our global HR management that thought Valentines day was a good day to visit and ask everyone out for dinner. For the moment it means that my wife isnt overly happy about my work/Life balance. I have to make it up during the weekend and we have some vacation coming up (will go to California partially for work but we will get a few days out).

Looking at the slightly bigger picture I try to define timepoints during the week when I am not working. For me I dont work from leaving the office on Friday until Sunday afternoon. I do however work during most evenings during the week but try to have dinner with the family in between. Also when I do take vacation I dont check my e-mails etc but tell my staff to call me if something happens that I need to know or need to do something about. Having a 9 hour timezone difference to my boss and Company management doesnt help but can be managed.

We have people who try to completely avoid working outside office hours and that doesnt really do wonders for their career advancement so there need to be some type of balance.

Since we are located in Northern Europe we are having at least one annual debate with our US management about the differences in summer vacations between here and the US.
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Re: Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:42 pm

Thanks PG. Good comments.

My work involves Asia, Europe and Africa as well. All time zones, at all hours of the day. It's really a workaholic's dream, because I can be up in the morning quite early for Africa or Europe, and then working late into the day for Australia and Asia or India.

I give myself time to go to an occasional matinee (movie), walk out of the office at odd times for a visit to a local coffee shop, and in general use the "flex time" option that recruiters get because of the work they do.

You make an interesting point about the difference in vacation time. Honestly, I don't think that Euro-style vacations are coming to the States any time soon. And I'm not really certain that those long breaks are actually all that beneficial, but perhaps I'm just jealous.

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Re: Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby Rich Lemert » Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:57 pm

Regarding which has a better work/life balance - academia or industry - the answer has to be "it depends".

On the academic side, you have your big research factories (MIT, Berkeley, etc), where there is essentially no balance - your work is your life. Schools that have less of an emphasis on "cutting edge" research, however, and teaching-oriented schools, will allow you to have a life.

A similar dichotomy exists in industry. I'm currently working with one MAJOR company with a strong research reputation, and I would be hard-pressed to get ahold of their people on the weekend. I know of another company where the attitude is "if you can get everything done in 40 hours, more power to you; we just expect you to complete your assigned work - and we assign so much that you can't fit it in 40 hours."
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Re: Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby D.X. » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:50 am

Hi,

My first comment is that in terms of work/life balance, the desire to have more balance in favor of life is an age and stage issue. When I was younger, the work life balance was tipped towards more work and less life. I think that's probably the more frequent order, we tend to work more to build our careers when younger.

Second, the tipping point towards balanced, still linked to age and stage, is driven internally and is I guess a more self-control item as say family and personal pursuits become more meaningful in life vs. career aspects. Things that you once found meaninful in careers, such as that promotion or recognition by team are still important but become less and less meanginful - I guess linked to the realization that our work, is not our life an life, is not work.

So for me, I guess as a senior member of the forum, I prioritize my personal balance needs are, within reason to business needs.

In my past, I actually prioritized business needs over my personal needs. My wife (ex-girlfriend) never let's me forget the time i prioritzed a business meeting over a family vacation in Greece. Yes I did that - she was meeting her sister, whose boyfriend had family there. She went, I stayed and went to some corporate meeting in Las Vegas where I didn't see the light of sun for 3 days. Shameful no? but I did it. Today, that would never happen.

So what do I do? I establish boundries. For example, I leave the office at 5:30 PM MAX. Non-negotiable and often its earlier. I'm in the dark until my kid goes to sleep then i'll do about an hour of work max, and only during the week.

Why? because I've increased my at work-productivity. Long idle talks at the Coffee don't happen anymore. I've carved out useless conversations on Lync and reduced attendance at non-productive meetings or meetings where I'm the "I" in a RACI, - often dialing in to a meeting that's down the hall, while doing work.

Unless its a business impacting emergency, which are really not many if you take the view that those who have that view don't know what a true emergency is in terms of saving a life, then I don't take phone calls after work, nor do I send or respond to emails on the weekend.

Unless politically damaging, i don't attend corporate dinners with management. This has changed as I've aged where it was impossible that I wouldn't show up for such events. So i really prioritize and I have my checks and balances with the personal assistents of management, they'll give me a heads up if I should attend - I have an unwritten rule with them that they are not to invite me to any dinner meeting and must let me know if I'm expected there.

I also use flex-time - an often i'm out earlier but often I do let my colleagues know that I have a child waiting to be picked up etc.

PG mentioned European vacation time vs US, so I won't mention that, but what I will mention is in general i find European companies having culture that allow my behaviors and do accept a level of work life balance - for example, I will get a reminder email from HR around July if I have not scheduled 2 continuous weeks of holiday by that time (per local law). They intensify by the begining of the 4th quarter. My colleagues in US originating companies complain of work-life balance issues - but I think its changing sadly. For example, I'll call out some of the Big Pharma/Biotechs they have offices on the west coast and often its the US office calling in the shots, so you have alot of folks here on TCs starting at 6 or 7 or 8PM - sadly our American counterparts are not the early risers to compensate.

As far as burnout. Never had it,fully but came close. Based on my experiences, burnout I have seen has not been mainly linked to workload, i saw it maybe a handful of times but mostly, burnout I've seen has been linked to a demotivation, be it a misaligned view of recognition, feelings of diminished advancement and well work that then becomes laborious - the work load hasn't changed but it can feel really heavy when demotivated. What helps is the shift to more personal balance.

So can a person be useful with a shift to more balance? yes, see my point about increase at work productivity.

As far as balance vs industry and academia - I'm with Rich - depends on personal situation and environment you're working in.

And another point, where i live we only have stores open one day on the weekend - its the country really, also on Sundays you can't really do noisy yard work per local laws/regulations so you do have to rest and relax, that also helps!

Best,

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Re: Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby PG » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:09 pm

As for summer vacations especially in northern Europe I think that the reason for why people want to be out for a longer time is often mostly a question about wheather. Unless you want to travel far you are limited to a rather narrow window in time. Also for my country specifically the law says that you have the right to four weeks vacation during summer three of which are consecutive.

Personally I have noted that being out of office for a single week doesnt cause any issues except for work stacking up on my desk, two weeks is OK, three weeks is causing some grumbling and I never do more than three weeks.
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Re: Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Feb 15, 2018 6:58 pm

Wow, that's incredible that the law gets involved as to the length and dates of a required vacation! We get darn hot in Arizona here in the Summer time, and I wonder if perhaps the State Legislature could be persuaded to force employers to give us summer weeks off to head towards the mountains!

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Re: Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby PG » Mon Feb 19, 2018 2:04 pm

The law only says that you have the right to take vacation according to certain principles not that you have to do so.

Trying to get this thread back to the original topic. Does people have good ideas about how to succeed in finding a good balance that lets you advance you career while still havin a Life outside the office?
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Re: Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby D.X. » Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:51 am

Hi PG,

I'll respond again because work-life balance is important to me, I damn near passionate about it. (joke joke).

I can add another point from a Pharma perpective which is choice of being on the Service Provider vs in-house pharma client side.

Overall, the Vendor Service Provider Side, in general, has a higher risk for a poor work life balance career wise, and at many levels of hiarachy - that's the life of billable hours and servicing of clients. There are choices later on in career to freelance and/or in-house pharma but for the most part work live balance can be tough on that side.

Notwithstanding a career at the Service Provider side can offer great trade offs such as broad exposure, fast learning and rapid career growth/expertise. People do thrive on the Service Provider side and often linked to personality type. And certainly not to negate the Service Provider side as great place to start off a career if you're looking to non-academic careers in pharma.

I would say same for the Management Consulting world the are on the Service Provider side as well with billable hours as part of life, some work-life balance issues there, the trade-off is great learning experiences and growth.

I think PG, you and I cover benefits off in-house in previous posts.

One can also raise work-life balance during an interview as I have done and say stand on that platform when makeing career choices.

For example, my friend of mine with two little boys in a recent interview told her potential employer that as part of her employment she would need in absolute 2 days work from home each week - they accepted, but her BATNA was to walk away, she already had that arrangement in a job she was already in, so a caveat is that she was able to stand her ground.

As for me, well I will have a job where I will have 2 to 3 days work from home when not traveling (with me being on site 2 or 3 days a week) - for me that give balance in light of a toddler at home. In my case the work from home aspect for this next opportunity was huge in my decision-making for work-life balance. I went from having an arleady good one to what I forecast at the moment to be better. Yes there will be in the job tradeoffs, I'll certainly have alot on my place but i'm pretty good at managing my time, so no fear.

Which goes to another area for work-life balance which is remote working in the context is that you when you shut off, you're home! But that's also earned, expereince and expertise wise.

Best,

DX
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Re: Work/Life Balance - A Valentine's Day Consideration

Postby F.Z. » Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:40 pm

Lots of great posts in this thread thanks for sharing all!

I've enjoyed a nice work-life balance as an RA for a mid/big biotech in the US but recently switched over to a an position outside of the lab and the workload has increased significantly. Hoping as a poster said, I get more effective and can things can balance out as I do miss my 9-5 days
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