I have previously written a post about ‘workaholics’ in response to the book Rework by 37Signals – you can read that post here. It was therefore interesting to read this article on the Sydney Morning Herald website entitled ‘The Workaholic Nation’ by Judith Ireland.
The article is focused on the sense of pride many of us feel in working long hours, pulling all-nighters and being sleep deprived. Ireland uses the example of the Jetstar captain who told his pilots to “Toughen up, princesses” when they complained about long shifts and night flights. From my perspective this attitude of pride around long work hours is so true. It seems that work life balance is all good and well, but often we are more worried about appearing to be working flat out and pushing ourselves to the limit. With this sort of attitude, do you think it will ever really be possible to achieve work life balance?
Riding on the Sheep’s Back
According to Judith Ireland, this Australian culture of overwork stems from an historical attitude with the belief that the only way to get something done is good old fashioned hard work. From “riding on the sheep’s back” to entrepreneurs we admire and Olympic sporting champions we idolise, hard work and toughing it out is continually being exemplified. If that means little sleep or little time spent with your family, then so be it. With such a culture so engrained in our lives, it’s no wonder we are finding the achievement of work life balance so elusive.
Individual’s or Organisation’s Responsibility?
I read many articles and comments around work life balance and there is definitely a school of thought that believes work life balance should be an individual’s responsibility, rather than the organisation’s. In many senses this is true as it is up to us to take responsibility for our own lives. However, how realistic is this when the Australian working culture is made up of such workaholic pride? In many organisations, attempting to achieve a work life balance is akin to banging your head against the boardroom wall. Most give up, realising that the whole organisation would have to change dramatically for this to become a reality.
Therefore, isn’t it perhaps fair to say that a lot of the success of work life balance does in fact lie with the organisation. If the organisation you work for supports, reinforces and demonstrates commitment to work life balance you are more likely to achieve this, as opposed to those organisations that say one thing but do another.
If you say that you offer flexible working arrangements but then make employees jump through hoops to get it, why would they even bother?
If you say that it’s ok to leave work early to pick up a sick child or get your car from the mechanic but then make that person feel as though they are letting the team down when they do, in what way is that supportive?
And if you encourage your staff to work appropriate hours but they see that their boss is always the first one at work and the last to leave, how easy is it going to be for them to achieve?
Yes, it is up to us as individuals to see work life balance as valuable and important, to drive the need. However, if an organisation does not support work life balance and make large efforts to make any amendments to their culture to do this, then we will continue to be a workaholic nation, achieving substandard work and life goals, but at least we will be seen to be working hard.
Do you think it is up to the organisation to help you achieve work life balance?
Do you take pride in your ‘workaholism’?
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