Work Life Balance: Can Boomers Learn How To Do It?

Posted on December 2, 2011.

Much has been said about one of the major generational differences in the workplace: balancing work and life. We know that Millenials take it for granted that they will maintain a balance, whereas previous generations struggle with the concept.

When I heard someone describe the culture of her company as "we are at our desks at 7am and leave at 7pm, but I love what I do" I thought about why we still frame expectations in the workplace in terms of how much time someone spends there? The prominent use of the word "but" in that sentence infers that the speaker has a conflict-she loves what she does for a living, but she has a problem with the amount of time she spends on it.

Do we really need to define our jobs by how much time they take?  Would you think less of that person if they described their work situation in this way: "I have a great job that challenges me and I look forward to arriving every morning?" Do we have to demonstrate that the job takes a lot of time away from the rest of our lives in order to prove that we work hard at it?

If the business community wants to get serious about work life balance (and I'm not convinced that they do) then we have to reframe how we talk about work, especially about what it takes to be successful at it. In general, we tend to think that someone who does a task more quickly is better at it than someone who is slower. So why wouldn't that naturally translate to someone who does a great job and leaves at 5pm, versus the person who is slugging away at 7pm?

I can only hope that the dialogue will change as Boomers such as myself start exiting the workplace, or learn from our younger coworkers that there is more to life than work.