CareerQuest Newsletter
Life-Work Balance Revisited: Myth or Reality

April 2008
My dear friends, colleagues, clients and students:

This issue has an article which sparks intense debates. We are trying to give you a balanced viewpoint. The title of this article is Life-Work Balance Revisited: Myth or Reality.

CareerQuest presented its first free Interactive Teleseminar with Career Doctor Don. The topic was How to Choose a Career Counselor, Coach or Advisor. Two identical one-hour sessions were scheduled for Tuesday, March 25, 2008, the first session at 12:00pm EST, and the second session at 8:00pm EST. Due to the limited capacity of the conference call line, early registration was required.

The second teleseminar is being scheduled for Tuesday, April 29, 2008. Announcements to follow in your e-mails. The timely topic is The Secrets to Surviving in Today's Job Market.

Our book, Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career Is A Pathway To Your Soul!), scheduled to be published by iUniverse in 2008, is in copyediting and right on target. Several pre-publication reviews have been encouraging and fabulous. We will certainly keep you posted.

Career Doctor Don Answers Your Questions appears as a regular feature in the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) - New Jersey Chapter newsletters. Visit www.ispe.orgto read more.

Many of you have asked us if we provide counseling over the telephone and through e-mail, as well as face-to-face counseling. The answer is 'yes' to both questions. Pre-paying with credit cards is very easy. Just a simple click on the services page of our website. You can also view past issues of this newsletter on the archives page.

We actively solicit your comments and feedback.

Until we meet again through the magic of email...

Peace! Love! Shalom!

Don Sutaria, MS, IE (Prof.), PE
Founder, President & Life-Work Coach

Life-Work Balance Revisited: Myth or Reality
by Don Sutaria

Sometimes I bury my head in the sand, like a proverbial ostrich! Perhaps the power of optimism and idealism takes its toll. I prefer to call this topic Life-Work Balance instead of the conventional terminology, Work-Life Balance, a term first coined in 1986 in America. My reason is obvious! I consider life more important than work, and work as a means to achieve the life you desire. Most readers may disagree with this concept and that is O.K. too!

This new term, Work-Life Balance, signified the unhealthy choices that many of us were making in favor of the workplace, as we knowingly decided to neglect our physical and mental health, family members, friends and leisure activities in the pursuit of corporate goals and the almighty dollar. Many of us discovered that our ladder was leaning against the wrong tree and that we cannot take it with us, a rude awakening!

It is my firm belief that an integrated and balanced life is like a pizza with eight slices. If one of the slices is missing, it is not a complete pizza! The eight slices are: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, cultural, and educational.

Nick Halpin of The Counseling Service of the University of Dundee, Scotland, talks about a similar concept for Work-Life Balance, and refers to eight anchor points as follows: job, self-care (sport/exercise), community activities, family relationships, friends and colleagues, religious/spiritual concerns, hobbies/interests, and future plans/projects.
There's lip service about work-life balance, and then there is reality.
Jack Welch, the former chairman and chief executive of General Electric woke me up, when I read the chapter, Work-Life Balance: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Having It All (But Were Afraid to Hear), in his recent book, Winning, coauthored with his wife Suzy Welch.

Welch is remarkably and refreshingly candid about work-life balance. In a Newsweek article of April 4, 2005, he says:
If there was ever a case of 'Do as I say, not as I did,' this is it. No one, myself included, would ever call me an authority on work-life balance. For 41 years, my operating principle was work hard, play hard and spend some time as a father. It is clear that the balance I chose had consequences for the people around me at home and at the office. For instance, my kids were raised, largely alone, by their mother, Carolyn.

I have dealt with dozens of work-life balance situations and dilemmas as a manager, and hundreds more as the manager of managers. And over the past three years, I've heard from many people—bosses and employees—about the complex issue of work-life balance. I have a sense of how bosses think about the issue, whether they tell you or not. You may not like their perspective, but you have to face it. There's lip service about work-life balance, and then there is reality. To make the choices and take the actions that ultimately make sense for you, you need to understand that reality: your boss's top priority is competitiveness. Of course he wants you to be happy, but not inasmuch as it helps the company win. In fact, if he is doing his job right, he is making your job so exciting that your personal life becomes a less compelling draw.
We can't do everything, but neither can we retreat from the things that are important.
Most bosses are perfectly willing to accommodate work-life balance challenges if you have earned it with performance. The key word here is: if. Bosses know that the work-life policies in the company brochure are mainly for recruiting purposes and that real work-life arrangements are negotiated one on one in the context of a supportive culture, not in the context of...but the company says...! People who publicly struggle with work-life balance problems and continually turn to the company for help get pigeonholed as ambivalent, entitled, uncommitted, incompetent—or all of the above. Even the most accommodating bosses believe that work-life balance is your problem to solve. In fact, most know that there are really just a handful of effective strategies to do that—staying focused on what you're doing and saying no to demands outside your work-life balance, for example—and they wish you would use them.
The October 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine has a fascinating article by Keith H. Hammonds. On the cover it proclaims in bold print: Still Believe in Work-Life Balance? Forget it (But here's how to have a life anyway).
Universal Office Handbook: Chapter 30: Life-Work Balance

The Benevolence to Employees and Dependents through Life Asset Management (BEDLAM) program is designed to help employees achieve life-work balance. Key features are:

Flextime: You shouldn't have to choose between work and time with the family. Therefore, we have instituted a flextime policy that allows employees, with the manager's approval, to complete their 60-hour week as they see fit. Employees can choose seven 8-plus-hour days or three 20-hour days, allowing for a long weekend to sleep.

Family Leave: Because the company is headquartered in Bangalore, India, it is not obligated to abide by family-leave laws. But to help employees "be with" loved ones in the event of a new child or medical emergency, we do offer discounted picture frames, appropriate for office use, in which to place family photos.

Child Care: To ensure the well-being of employees children, the human resources department, in a program launched with our warehouse, offers reduced-price childcare to dependents ages 5-13. Eligible children must be able to lift 20-pound boxes, operate accounting software, and/or drive a forklift truck.
This vignette, adapted from the comedian Ryan Underwood's materials, may not be too far from the truth. In most cases, employees get a lot of lip service from employers, but from practical consideration standpoints, when the rubber meets the road, the employees are left high and dry, due to fear of losing their jobs in the present economy.
The fallacy I see here is that family obligations can conveniently be subordinated to those at work. Child rearing is a difficult proposition and cannot be rationed or be given a lower time priority;
you get only one chance!
Balance is Bunk! says Keith H. Hammonds. It is a central myth of the modern workplace: With a few compromises, you can have it all. But it's all wrong, and it's making us crazy.

"Do we throw up our hands then? We can't do everything, but neither can we retreat from the things that are important. How do we make work and life happen on our terms? The short answer is, we don't entirely. But there are saner ways to confront the problem," says Hammonds.

Hammonds believes in the concept of embracing imbalance (something I don't agree with...a precursor to workaholism!). Instead of trying to balance all our commitments and passions at any one time, let's acknowledge that anything important, and anything done well, demands our full investment. At some times, it may be a demanding child or an unhappy spouse, and the office will suffer. At others, it may be winning the special account, and child and spouse may have to fend for themselves. Only over time can we balance a portfolio of diverse experiences.

The fallacy I see here is that family obligations can conveniently be subordinated to those at work. Child rearing is a difficult proposition and cannot be rationed or be given a lower time priority; you get only one chance!
...we're going to have to accept a pay cut.
If we want time with our families, time to give back to our communities, time to stay slim, we're going to have to accept a pay cut. For many, the great fallacy is not that we aspire to accomplishment, but that we aspire to everything else, too. Unwilling to prioritize among things that all seem important, we instead invent for ourselves the possibility of having other words, The Superman/Superwoman Trap, according to Hammonds. I could not agree more!

Here are some helpful hints in devising your own Life-Work plan:
  1. When you go on vacation, regardless of the duration, leave your cell phones and laptops at home.
  2. Make a list of core values most important to you.
  3. What are your dreams?
  4. What do you want to splurge on?
  5. Do you want to put family first and spend time with your children?
  6. What is your exit plan for retirement or a shortened work week?
  7. Is your financial plan sound, including later years?
  8. Are you spending enough time in friendships with people?
  9. Are you still having some degree of fun at work?
  10. Do you still have the resources for entertainment and travel?
  11. Do you have to keep up with the Joneses?
  12. Where do you really want to live?
  13. How can you maintain your health?
  14. Are you continually developing and improving our relationships with people around you?
  15. Are you giving something back to our community or constantly just taking something?
  16. Are you aware that when life makes you want to call a time-out, perhaps it is time to call in a coach?
Best-selling business author Rob Parsons exposes the myth that the longer you stay in the office, the more successful you will be, in his latest book The Heart of Success. Subtitled 'Making it in Business without Losing Your Life,' this new book helps you balance both work and life.
No one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time in the office.
Parsons believes that family life should be valued more than a career (perhaps a very un-American concept!) and he is against the current pressures of working long hours, which can lead to executive burnout and lack of fulfillment. Parsons describes how the phrase that 'no one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time in the office' had a tremendous impact on him as he changed his life to free up more time for those closest to him.

In The Heart of Success, Parsons identifies an emerging social class—the new poor.
Time poverty is hard to spot because often every other part of the life in question seems to be going so very well. This person has a high standard of living, those they love have every material need provided. The kids get expensive presents at birthdays and Christmas and attend the best schools. The family may go on several holidays a year, there may be a second home in the country, and a family membership of a health and fitness club.

But the time pauper has a growing sense as the years go by that he or she has 'missed it', that somehow they have been cheated or fooled. They have spent the best part of 20 years rushing around fulfilling the demands of others, they have built up a fair stock of material possessions, but they have a gnawing at their very soul that they have had little time to develop close relationships with those they love. Time poverty is tragic because while we strive for 'success' it simultaneously attacks those we care about most.
For the past 20 years Parsons has been traveling around the world, giving seminars on life-work balance. He believes that women have a significant role to play in fighting to obtain a better life-work balance by pushing for flexible hours and by refusing to play the long-hours game of their male counterparts.

Parsons offers seven guidelines for success in business and life in his book.

The seven laws are:
  1. Don't settle for being money rich - time poor.
  2. Believe that the job you do makes a difference.
  3. Play to your strengths.
  4. Believe in the power of dreams.
  5. Put your family before your career.
  6. Keep the common touch.
  7. Don't settle for success; strive for significance.
Time poverty is tragic because while we strive for "success" it simultaneously attacks those we care about most.
If any of the following danger signs apply to you, then it's time to readjust your life-work balance.
  1. You work longer hours than anybody else.
  2. You resent colleagues who work fewer hours than you do.
  3. You are often irritable, headachy or exhausted.
  4. You are often ill on holiday.
  5. You go out for dinner in your business clothes.
  6. You are furious if the car in front of you doesn't move away from traffic lights quickly enough.
I think there is only one intelligent creature on this great big planet earth who had figured out true life-work balance! As soon as I put my key in the door to my house every evening after work, he wagged his tail furiously and jumped out of his skin to show how much he liked me. Behind this show of affection on his part, he has no ulterior motives. His name was King and he was a 13-year-old black Labrador Retriever. (King died on Monday, September 11, 2006, and left a big hole in my heart!).

A dog is the only domestic animal I know of that doesn't have to really work for a living. A donkey has to carry the burden to a marketplace, a hen has to lay eggs, a cow has to give milk, a canary has to sing, a monkey has to entertain you, but a dog makes his living by giving you nothing but love! Think of it!

Don Sutaria is Founder and President of CareerQuest (formerly New Life Career Counseling), located in New York and New Jersey. CareerQuest is also mentioned in "What Color is Your Parachute?" Sutaria is a consultant to individuals and various corporations, offering executive coaching and career management services. He has developed unique methods for capturing jobs in the new millennium. He appeared on a Phil Donahue TV special on unorthodox methods of job hunting. Known as "Career Doctor Don", he has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Star-Ledger, The Union Leader, WorkingSmart, SmartMoney, Fortune, Money, and on WINS and WOR radio. He specializes in counseling of international professionals, Generation X (age 20-29), career changers, freelancers, consultants, mid-career executives and people over age 50. He really believes that your career is a pathway to your soul.

Mr. Sutaria has over forty years of diversified industrial and management experience, complemented by training in career development and hands-on experience in career advising. He is an international cross-cultural trainer. He has also served on committees of several organizations, and conducted courses, seminars and symposiums at Columbia University, New York University, Nyack College, Alliance Graduate School of Counseling, Rutgers, and Stevens Institute of Technology. He is a member of the Association of Career Professionals International and the Career Counselors Consortium.

Don earned his MS degree in Management from Kansas State University, an IE (Professional) degree in International Management and Personnel Relations from Columbia University, and obtained New York University's postgraduate Certificate in Adult Career Planning and Development.

Don Sutaria is the author of 
Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career Is A Pathway To Your Soul!) due to be published in 2008.