Jack Welch, the former GE chief executive, recently caused a stir when he said, "there's no such thing as work-life balance." Is he right?
Work-life policy are laws or business practices that enable people to better manage their work and family responsibilities. Examples of work-life policies are increased use of part-time labor w/benefits, flexible jobs, time-share positions, telecommuting, corporate daycare centers, paternity leave, fully paid maternity leave, and so on. These policies would also include protections for individuals who were unable to work due to full-time care taking responsibilities.
While work-life issues have gotten front page coverage in recent years and have even been mentioned by the president, there is no evidence that there has been any change in business practices and certainly no laws passed that would encourage these practices.
There have been no signs of change in either academia or Wall Street, fields that both Steve and I work in. Steve goes to mandatory seminars on work-life issues, but nobody takes them seriously. The general feeling is that flexible jobs will be the first to be cut during a recession.
The recession has freed up time at home. I'm working from home now, and Steve gets home a half hour earlier. He walks in the door at 6:30, rather than 7:00. That half hour makes a HUGE difference. For the first time ever, we eat dinner together. The food is put away, and we can actually do something with the evening.
But policy aside, is it possible to successfully balance work and family? Sure. But a balance means compromising on both ends. You can't lead a major industry and drive the kids to soccer practice. You can't make dinner from scratch with organic vegetables and read the entire series of Harry Potter to the kids, when you've got late night meetings with Tokyo.
For many people though, they are willing to take that middle ground between workaholic and homemaker. We just need more opportunities to take that route.
Loved this response by Conor Friedersdorf, who is guest blogging at Andrew Sullivan.
It is no coincidence that in our current corporate structure, a lot of
CEOs and law partners lead miserable lives rife with lost friendships,
dysfunctional relationships, divorces, alienated children, ludicrous
attempts to use consumption as a stand in for actual happiness, etc.
Perhaps if we stopped viewing these jobs as what we're aspiring to
reach, and begin seeing them as fool's gold largely sought by folks
with too narrow a conception of ambition, men and women who never reach
the C suite would better count their blessings.