Every single morning, I proudly walk from my apartment to the business school. On this five minute walk, I’m preparing myself to have another successful day. Actually, I mostly think about how incredibly hot it is walking in my suit or business casual outfit in 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit for my American readers).
Last week I had a meeting with my advisor and even though we’re only a couple of weeks into the MBA program we’re are already encouraged to think about what type of companies we want to work for and what type of industries we want to work in. Many factors go into deciding what jobs to apply for. Some people value a competitive salary, some put a high emphasis on location and others want to be able to have a good work-life balance. A good what? A good work-life balance is a way of thinking that emphasizes the ‘ideal’ balance between work and life. This way of thinking is used a lot nowadays where people sometimes ask me: Ritchie, are you not working too much? Do you have time to do fun stuff? Let me share you some of my thoughts on the balance between work, college and social life.
While working at Projob in Amsterdam, we noticed that some starters wanted to work about four days a week instead of a full work week. But why? Don’t you want to jump start your career, make as much money as possible, gain tons of experience and get ready for bigger opportunities in the near future? The younger generation seems to have different requirements for a job nowadays. They accept a lower income if that means they will have more free time. Comparing this to what I´m experiencing here in the US, is that most starters and recent graduates actually will be working more than a 40 hour work week instead of less.
A really good friend of mine works at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and they have Panda Fridays. First of all, I love this initiative, but I’m absolutely obsessed with the name, Panda Friday! Every other Friday, employees are not coming to the office. As described by Sarah Halzack in an article for the Washington Post, by periodically closing down its office, WWF said it is reducing its carbon footprint by trimming use of electricity, heat, air conditioning and other utilities. And eliminating one day of commuting for its employees means that the nonprofit is taking some cars off the road. This gives their employees a certain type of flexibility which allows them to schedule downtime, but eventually this doesn´t mean that the employees work less this week. They make up for those hours on other days or work from other locations.
Work and Life
I’m not a fan of the term ‘work-life balance’. Let me explain to you why! By using this combination of the words ‘work’ and ‘life’, ‘work’ has a negative annotation that shouldn’t be the case. As if work is seen as a burden, something that you’re obligated to do. And then ‘life’ is seen as something you want to do, like you’re finally able to relax after all the obligations at work. This might be the case if you’re doing a job that you find to be dreadful, but I’m hoping that this is not the case for most people.
I prefer to change this term to ‘Life Balance’, a balance that is more about showing up as our present, honest and original selves and less about the battle for time and energy between work and life. You can work 8 hours a day and have 8 hours of time with family and friends. Seems like the perfect balance right? Not in my opinion! Life balance cannot be quantified, it’s about the quality of the time. To intensify the quality of these moments, you can choose to be more present, whether you are at work or not.
I’m currently in a stage of life where I’m focused on learning every single day. Yes, I’m working a lot but I’m extremely excited to be pushing myself to become more efficient and productive. I’m around like-minded co-students and educators that all want the best for each other. By being present in the situation, I’m finding the life balance that fits my needs. I totally understand what people are looking for when they’re using the term ‘work-life balance’ and I’m not saying that work is not stressful at times. You might miss a family event because you had to stay to finish a project at work. It will happen, it’s part of life. Sometimes we can’t control the course of our day but if we live life by being present and focusing on that particular moment, then we’re more likely to succeed at finding life balance. And companies, let’s all have Panda Fridays!