Ryan's Blog

Like Twitter, but longer



In a tweet just before the Christmas break, Mary McKenna posted to some jobs currently being advertised by Learning Pool (they're over here by the way). I have to say I was tempted with the prospect of a change, particularly as I think Learning Pool would be a great company to work for.  That said, I'm not actively looking for a new job, but it is always good to be aware of the market. In the continuing discussion, Mary mentioned something about work/life balance not really existing, and how she knew that would be an issue for me (it would), but it got me thinking. What actually is work/life balance? What it implies to me is that there's this thing we do called work, which we hate, and that work is something we only do to enable us to do the other thing, which we call life. Our employer pays us to work, typically for 40 hours a week, but they secretly (or not so secretly) expect us to work longer than that, and they'll do everything they can to get more than 40 out of us.  It's our job as employees to resist that demand, as anything outside the 40 is our personal life we're giving up. But I disagree with that premise Φ.  Life is not made up of two halves, work and life, there is only life (or work if you look at it that way). It's important to enjoy everything we do, to recognise that we only get one shot at this. We choose to work longer (and therefore live shorter) for a time in order to enjoy the living bit when we've saved enough. Some of us are also in a particularly fortunate position of really loving the jobs that we do, to the extent that we don't really consider it work at all (My mother has accused me of merely "playing at work" before, I think that's not far from the truth). I reckon there are a greater proportion of people in the Technology industry who feel that way than in most other sectors (though I've nothing to back up that notion). I do think that we in the software development industry have a particular issue with balance. We enjoy the problem solving challenge of programming and the technical gizmos we use every day so much that we can't stop using them even when we're supposed to be relaxing. We end up spending most of our free time in front of a screen, either doing the same thing we do at work, or some personal project (or blogging, editing photos, tweeting, gaming...) I regularly spend lots of time in the evening working.  If it wasn't Christmas I'd probably, at this moment, be programming on the BBC Food website, catching up with email or doing some strategy work on the new Knowledge & Learning online product (instead, I'm writing a blog post about work/life balance).  In other words, just because I'm paid for a 9-5, doesn't mean that's all I'm going to give to my employer. Give me engaging work, make me feel like I want to invest in the product, reward me handsomely and I'll give you much more than you are entitled too. And my balance? Right now, my priorities are with my children. They'll only be small for a little while, and I don't want to miss a moment of it if I can.  What that means is I'll do just about everything I can to be present at the weekends, and at home for breakfast, dinner and the bedtime hour. Any other time of day, you probably have some or all of my attention.

ΦDid you see how I demolished that strawman there?