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why “work-life” balance? advocating a 3.5 day weekend

| 30 Comments

A question: why do we talk about “work-life balance”?

Should work / job / career etc not simply be part of life instead of life’s equal?

It seems somewhat a misdemeanor to segregate finding a job and going to work as a big chunk, and then squish everything else – such as health, family, friends, relationships, hobbies, interests etc – into what we call “life,” and try to balance the two?

That in itself is a faulty premise, for we are trying to juggle one thing i.e. work, with a gazillion other things.

No wonder so many people are still looking for  balance.

Ideally, work should be fun and be aligned with personal dreams and aspirations. However, reality is we need to put bread on the table and the income-generating activity we do might not necessarily be the one that we enjoy.

So we get wrapped up in this vicious cycle, and think, as long as we go to the spa and relax, or go hiking on the weekends, we have found the “balance”. I lived under this same illusion for a few years, especially during my younger days in Paris and Tokyo. Today I bear the brunt of this deceiving concept having burnt myself out working with occasional holidays, sitting on the beach, skimming through my blackberry.

Life is what we have and what we do with being alive; life needs to encompass work, not something to be balanced with vis-à-vis work.

Nonetheless, if we do have to juxtapose work with everything else in life, then from a mere quantity perspective, should we not go to work only for 3.5 days a week, and the remaining 3.5 days a “weekend” to pursue our hobbies, interests, sleep, rejuvenate etc?

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I understand that balance does not necessarily mean equal chunks, but if we don’t even have an equal amount of time for “work” and an equal amount of time for “life (and everything else we pile into it)” to start with, then how do we even begin to find a balance?

I suggest we start with half the week working, and half the week life-ing.

However much I subscribe to the ideas of Tim Ferris’ book, a four-hour work week seems slightly far-fetched for most people. More realistic is to work half the week making money to pay for our expenses for the other half of the week enjoying ourselves. Enough rest and rejuvenation would increase our productivity so the end achievement could be the same as working 5 days a week, if not better.

Another level of course, as we all dream, is to not even have that clear cut segregation, for we can enjoy ourselves while we work and make money to finance the lifestyle we prefer.

Perhaps when I’m back on my feet I will start a worldwide campaign with large corporations to allow their employees to work only three and a half days per week with the same, if not more, pay. The companies need not lose productivity; they simply hire more people and work them in shifts. I’m sure some management consultancy firm / HR expert would be happy to take on a project for another million dollars advising companies how to organize their employees in shifts. I can advise too, except I don’t like verbose PowerPoint presentations or coloured charts.

What is the point of this blurb? I’d like to say that this was a deep analysis of productivity, lifestyle, balance, and sagacious opinions on finding the work we love, passion, creativity etc…

But really, in all honesty, I’m just rambling. I take consolation in that at least Frog Design agrees with me.

What’s your take on a 3.5 day weekend?

                               

30 Responses

  1. Andy says:

    I say we should only work 2 days and rest 5 days in a week for the same pay : )

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Andy
      Ahah why not – though if we could play during ‘work’ then we’d be playing every day and getting paid for it! Key is working for something we love? What say you?
      Noch Noch

      • Andy says:

        I agree completely! I rather earn less money and be happy than earning more money and feel like shit everyday. It is true that corporations should play a big part in supporting work-life balance, but ‘balance’ is very subjective. I believe each employee has their own different lifestyle and however they define ‘balance’, it is completely up to them and it is an “effort” that one has to make to achieve that balance.

        At the end of the day, it is also about choosing the right company culture :)

        • nochnoch says:

          Hi Andy

          Yup – it’s about company culture, and to leave a company we are not happy in even if it’s paying us lots of money. Not many people have the courage to leave their jobs esp in this job market. But why sacrifice our own happiness? We all have different needs and priorities, and we need to choose for ourselves, not have a company dictate what we do!

          Noch Noch

  2. My personal goal is not to have a distinction between living and working. Tall order to fill, especially if money is a necessity. Although, a good friend of mine found a solution by splitting his year in half. He busted his a$$ for 6 months, saving money to spend it at his leisure while travelling abroad for the other 6 months!

    Not bad if you don’t burn yourself out while in the work cycle!

    Good concept Noch!

    Vlad

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Vlad
      How are you? Yes I’m trying to find something that will let me work while living and live while working… I think we all place too much emphasis on ‘work’ and the obligations it impose on us. We need to rid being a slave of work!
      Noch Noch

  3. Shanti says:

    I totally agree. However, while corporations and sales are always trying to beat last quarters numbers or earnings, how do you mobilize societies to reverse the odometer or set expectations at a different level? Presently, everyone is racing towards a goal with no end in sight. Companies and individuals work past 40 hours when they can, often sacrificing relationships and personal health. I believe more discussion in all environments from dinner tables to offices need to be had on this topic. To change values from a worldwide perspective in order to meet the needs from within ourselves will eventuate the 3.5 day work week you, myself, and already so many others desire.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Shanti

      Thats always the dilemma isnt it, what corporates want, targets and all. You say it well, there is no end at sight. We chase for nothing. I’m not sure how to make it happen but I’m taking it up as y calling to lobby corporates if they dont want their employees to end up like me!!

      Noch Noch

  4. Justin Mazza says:

    I totally agree Noch. I often tell people that working 5 days and being off for only 2 does not equal a balanced life. When we are not balanced in our lives in any way it throws off everything else.

    I support the idea of working only 3.5 days. We did not incarnate on Earth to become human working robots. We came here to experience all that life has to offer us.

    I could go on and on about this topic.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Justin

      Yes – I’ve been trying to research as to who came up with Mon – Fri as work days and Sat and Sun as weekends. I can’t seem to find the origin or reasoning behind
      I think when we were cavemen, people went out to hunt for about half a day, and spent the other half with their kids, having fun, sleeping or building a bonfire and singing / dancing around it. So even though they “worked” 7 days a week, it was only for half a day (with work defined as activity that brings in food)….
      so where did we go astray?

      Noch Noch

  5. Vidya Sury says:

    :-) I suspect I already follow a half-week-work policy because I just added up the number of hours I work on average. I am busy all the time but it is with various non-remunerative activity.

    I like the concept. Reminds me of all those discussions about retiring at the age of 30. :-)

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I look forward to coming back here often. What a beautifully clean blog design!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Vidya

      Thanks for visiting and happy to hear that you like the blog design! I’ve followed your blog for quite a while but had not commented much. Haha I’m trying to find my own balance within the week and spend some time “achieving” whilst some time “enjoying life” so to speak. Though I’m more of the opinion these days that our achievements should be what we enjoy!

      I just turned 31 but maybe I can “retire” soon too :p

      Take care
      Noch Noch

  6. Steve says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Work should be a part of life instead of equalizing the two. The only way I’d want to balance my life between them is if I actually had a job that I was extremely passionate about. Because you need money to buy food and pay for a place to stay, you need to work. The fun, exciting jobs will be scare and competitive. That’s how it seems to work.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Steve

      That does sound like the reality, though if we were lucky to have a job we were passionate about – and to change out of it when we lose that interest – then it’d be one first step towards balance!

      Thanks for visiting and hope to see you here again soon
      Noch Noch

  7. MW says:

    I currently work between 18 – 20 hrs a week. 12 hrs actually making money and the rest admin. It has taken about 15 years of being self employed to reach this schedule. I’ve been shaving hours off since my first year.

    For me, the real power of being an entrepreneur is the freedom to shape the amount of work into something that will allow living. When you can make enough to sustain a good life, whatever that may be, I consider it balanced.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi MW

      I think that’s what a lot of people are looking for, the flexibility and power to shape the life and work hours the way they want. I also think that corporates should somehow rethink the demands they make on their employees. It also takes us a lot of self control to to train our brain to stop thinking about work after work – do you have some advice for us on how to detach?

      Thanks for visiting again!
      Noch Noch :)

      • MW says:

        Hi Noch Noch;

        Corporations are out to make money, usually at the expense of their people. Making a lot of money can be addictive because there are so many wonderful ways to spend it.

        However we are also using our energy to exchange for said money and once depleted, we pay a far higher cost that money in the bank cannot buy back. Only time can.

        What worked for me was identifying the aspects of life that was the most important and priced it out. Unfortunately for me, my interests tend to cost money. I worked backwards to see just how much I needed to make in a year to afford the lifestyle I want. I aimed for enough.

        Accepting I can have anything I want, but not necessarily all at the same time has helped a lot. And telling myself to stop racing towards these self inflicted ridiculous mental finish lines that really no one cares about has been a good reminder to slow down and do enough enjoyable things to neutralize what a work day, work week etc. does to us.

        MW

        • nochnoch says:

          Hi MW

          I agree – I’m also trying to work out what kind of lifestyle I would like and how to finance it. I don’t need stacks of gold in the account (though if someone gave me a few I wouldn’t mind either :p ), just whatever is enough for me. And I hope to find something I love doing that can finance the activities I want to do. Work some, play some. Together that is life.

          Those mental finish lines also got the better of me for a long time. I’m learning to erase them too. I got so hooked up with number of visits, traffic and all that with starting my blog, even though I started it for my passion of writing and also as my therapy. Even being sick I had a finish line to cross. Erasing that too…

          Take care and speak soon
          Noch Noch

          • MW says:

            Hi Noch Noch;

            How much do you believe culture had to do with your driving yourself beyond what was healthy?

            Asian culture is known for getting things done quicker and faster. Competition is rampant. Thus the never ending pressure to perform at the expense of oneself.

            Do you think that will ever change? Especially when opting out could be construed as giving up or failing to keep up?

            MW

          • nochnoch says:

            Hi MW

            Indeed – I think culture affects my “values” so to speak. I was taught to compete, to do things better, and opting out was “weak”. I am not sure if it would ever change. I doubt it could change. It’s a whole culture and will take generations even if there will be change. Most of Asia is emerging as markets and economy, so I suspect it would only be “faster” and “more” for now…

            What do you think?

            Noch Noch

  8. Marvin says:

    Love this post NochNoch. Having spent over a decade in the Silicon Valley trenches, I’ve witnessed how the industrial machine of the 21st century corporation systematically and effectively grinds up workers and spits them out without batting an eyelash.

    The worst part isn’t even the unreasonable demand on people…it’s the utter thanklessness of it all. My five years with a tech company who will go unnamed(but you can google my name to find out), was rewarded with a ballpoint pen that didn’t even have my name on it. You know what my 10 years of service got me? 6 hours notice that my skills and talents were no longer of use to the company.

    That’s when I realized no job title or amount of money was worth allowing your life to pass you by without enjoying it. I pledged myself to help others see the light and to try to inspire them to work on their dreams harder than they work at their jobs.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Marvin

      Sounds like you had quite a journey. I agree, the thanklessness of a lot of corporates makes us wonder why we labour and toil. For a paycheck I suppose. Some companies are not all that bad but I can imagine how some exploit their employees. Anyhow, I agree that no amount of money or job title is worth letting life pass by without enjoying it. I committed that fatal mistake for some 10 years and now looking for my balance and what I should be doing next.

      Good luck with your endeavours!
      Noch Noch

  9. Anna B says:

    Fantastic post! I agree that we should not consider work as a different thing than life.

    I think we make a mistake when we think that we would be happier not working. Work – satisfying, engaging work – is what we were made to do. If we truly had *nothing* to do we would quickly become depressed and bored.

    I think the trick is a mindset – you have to realize that you are working 8 hours a day and sleeping 8 hours a day, leaving 8 hours to yourself. Just find a flow, a rhythm, to enjoy each part of each day. When you can do that, work won’t feel heavy and leisure won’t seem so brief.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Anna B

      Right on – we all regard “work” as an evil thing. It has some negative connotations with it. But it needn’t be like that. Work can be satisfying too. Just not to let it consume us. Even when I was in the corporate I enjoyed my work. My mistake was letting it consume me and putting it as first priority over everything else. Work is part of life, and we all have to “work” / “produce” to enjoy life.

      Thanks for the insights! See you here again soon
      Noch Noch

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  11. MW says:

    Hi Noch Noch;

    I couldn’t seem to be able to reply under your last comment so I’ll add my thoughts here.

    If the inherent culture is not likely to change any time soon, if ever, would you ever consider building your life elsewhere in order to work and live without the level of judgement and expectation that exists where you are?

    MW

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi MW

      Maybe – but right now I want to try to influence some sort of change, when I’m ready to work again. One person at a time. Depression has taught me to not judge, and also to not take unreasonable judgments as these to heart. And to do what I think is right for betterment. So hopefully I can instill some influence…

      Noch Noch

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about Noch Noch

Noch Noch is born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. Noch Noch loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive for the last 7 years in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2011 due to her illnesses and now spends her time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress.