NROP: How to achieve work-life balance?

Some of you know that my NROP pieces are usually published on Monday mornings (US time zones), so it might be a bit surprising to you to see this post published on a Tuesday. No, I did not mess up my days (at least not this time, anyway). I assure you that there is a very valid reason behind it.

It is because I felt like I needed more leisure time before sitting down to write a blog post. Even though blogging is not what I do for a living, and I definitely do not consider it work (in the traditional sense, anyway), sometimes I just feel more of a pull in a different direction, away from writing. Instead of drafting a post, I decided to have a few drinks, watch some fireworks, and just enjoy the beautiful weather that we have had these past two days (way too much rain before that… and probably a lot more to come, too).

For those of you outside of the United States of America – on Sunday, July the 4th, we celebrated our Independence Day. When I get a new calendar at the end of the year, the first thing I do is check specific dates (like Holidays, Birthdates, etc.) to see how much time off we could get. When I saw that 4th of July was on a Sunday, I almost wept a several months ago. (Christmas and New Year are on a Saturday this year!!!) Fortunately, many employers are gracious enough to give you a Friday off if a national holiday falls on a Saturday and a Monday off if it falls on a Sunday. That means that I had a three-day weekend (Sat-Mon) this weekend.

This kind of set-up was absolutely perfect for me, because it allowed me to do some things that I felt like I had to (some chores, visit to the gym, and social obligations), but it also gave me the chance to really relax (go to the movies, read, go for a walk, etc.). I have said it before, and I will say it again – it is SO nice to have three days off. It is good for the mind and the body. But, it does not only benefit me. It also benefits my employer, because I will be in the most optimal state of mind at work today. I will be firing on all cylinders, taking care of things in an effective and efficient manner. It is a win-win.

It often makes me wonder how people take care of certain things if they work full-time five days a week. Adulting requires you to do certain things that you cannot do afterhours, like renewing your driver license or car registration. (Yes, I know you can now do many of those things online, but if you encounter an issue, you have to go in. I speak from experience.) Some places are not open on weekends. What do you do then? I have been pretty lucky with my work in the sense that I have always been able to take some time off here and there when I needed it. Some jobs were more flexible than others. What do others do? If their bosses/ schedules are not that flexible? They have to take a day off, hope that whatever they are trying to do is resolved within that day, and then say good-bye to that day they could have used for their vacation. It really can be brutal.

A few people that I know enjoy working Tuesday to Saturday. That way they can relax on Sunday and do their chores on Monday, maybe even encountering less traffic than the rest of us do on Saturdays when we are out and about. They like it that way and I can definitely see the appeal.

When the COVID-19 pandemic rolled around and many of us began working from home, I felt like taking part in a work revolution. We were never going back to the office, saving us commute time. I could spend two hours a day on ANYTHING! And the employers seemed to be happy to have their workers spend more time with family, and/or doing things they liked they did not have time for before. Of course, that is all already forgotten now. Apparently the company culture is more important than the family/ house culture. But, who is surprised?

While many places now offer working from home as one of their benefits, other employers do not seem to care, which I think they will regret in the long run as they continue to lose talent to the more progressive (?) companies. We revert back to the office setting. So much for a ‘revolution,’ which leads me to believe that as much as we talk about having to innovate, we are very resistant to change.

While Japan is pushing for a four-day workweek, I do not see that happening in the US in the foreseeable future. There has been SO much research proving that we are not productive during all of the 8h of work every day, but no one seems to care. If someone does the same amount of work in 6h that they do in 8, should they not get two hours off? I do not mean for their pay to get cut, though. In fact, I would reward their productivity.

What surprised me was that the initiative in Japan is being backed by the government. Employers will not have to implement a 4-day workweek, but they will have the option to do so. The article quoted that Microsoft Japan saw a 40% increase in productivity and a decrease in electricity consumption in 2019 when it implemented a 4-day workweek on a trial basis.

During one of a recent lectures I attended, the speaker mentioned that they did not think work-life balance was possible in the profession they were discussing (doctors). Instead, they mentioned integration of these two worlds as something desirable and attainable. While I do believe there are differences between professions, I do think that integration is an interesting word when it comes to a work-life balance. I am aware that not every job can be done on a flexible schedule. But those that can, should. “That is not fair to all those that have to work specific hours and there is no wiggle room!” You might say. Yes, I see your point and that is something that can definitely be discussed separately. BUT, not making some lives better just because you cannot help everyone is not a good enough argument.

Once might say that once we give everyone a third day off, we will soon be asked for a four-day weekend. It probably is true. The more you get, the more you want. That is human nature. Greed. Even though I am aware of that, I still chose to believe that we should give it a try and see where things could go. We worry about people abusing the system, but if we started to punish those and reward those who are not, we might just discover something beautiful.

Make your employees happy and they will make you happy! That is the simple solution to achieving maximum productivity while allowing your employees to maintain a work-life balance.

Employers, it is all on you.

Employees, I hope you only get to work for employers who treat you right.

  • Do you use non-electronic calendars?
  • What do you use them for?
  • Is there a specific type you get? (with dogs, with cooking recipes, with room for notes)
  • Did you have Monday off? (if you live in the USA)
  • How did you spend your 4th of July weekend? (If you did not celebrate Independence Day, feel free to share how you spent your weekend, anyway.)
  • What do you think of a four-day workweek?
  • How are you able to get everything done if you work full-time 5 days a week?
  • Do you have flexible working hours?
  • Would you prefer a shorter-work day or a shorter work-week?
  • Would you prefer every Friday or Monday off (in addition to Saturday and Sunday)?

Stay golden,

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39 thoughts on “NROP: How to achieve work-life balance?

Add yours

  1. A great post, that both raises and asks questions. That phrase “integration” gets me. Work to live, not live to work, for the most part. I agree with you, firms that don’t adapt to new methods are doomed to end up like Sears. Ah well.

    As for paper calendars, love ’em. I’ve got the biggish one on the wall in the kitchen that has everyone’s appointments, birthdays, holidays, and so on added. I even use stickers. I have two in my office as well, a smaller wall calendar behind my computer with my appointments and a desktop, book-organizer calendar on a bookcase that I use to help make my weeks run smoothly. I may have issues 😉

    I think a shorter work week and flexible hours are a fantastic idea. We’ve let employers forget that we work for them. They don’t own us. I remember an employer trying to tell me once I couldn’t have X day off. It didn’t go over well. 😆

    Liked by 2 people

    1. After I published this piece, I felt like it was not a complete post. There are so many other questions and arguments to be presented. In the end, I figured that I already asked too many questions on this one. (It’s quite funny how sometimes it’s easier to come up with a list of questions that other times.) But, I’m rambling again…

      I have a hard time understanding workaholics/ people whose identity is so tightly linked to their work.

      It makes me wonder if those companies are really that dumb (they don’t know what’s what) or if they CHOOSE not to change because they don’t want to. I like to think it’s the latter one, but the pandemic kinda showed that it might be the former one…

      Stickers for calendars sound like fun! I definitely used to have more calendars in the past (wall, desk, pocket, etc.), but I feel like I’m coming back to it because it really worked! I find it increasingly hard to find calendars that work for me (specific dimensions, space inside, division, etc) these days. While most of my work stuff is in outlook, I still put the more important things in a paper planner. I often fantasise about the electronic calendars wiping… Shhhhh… it wasn’t me!

      Yea, I cringe just thinking I could have an employer who could tell me that… but it’s a reality for some people. Amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, four day working week is definitely the way to go. I can’t imagine working five days a week now, I stopped doing that at least eight years ago. Not too surprised that Japan is considering a four day week. They put in very long hours there and the stress level is high, so a shorter working week would ease the stress and probably increase productivity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed. It’s peculiar that such a revolutionary idea would start in Japan of all places. Don’t you think? It should show all the other countries that pushing your employees to the limit is not the way to go, but instead, it probably shows that … we still can push our employees farther. They don’t have it as bad as the Japanese. Ehhhh.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I actually believe the opposite may come to be…

    Working from home we get the benefit of flex-time, flex-meals, incidental errands, better family interaction, pet interaction and just a healthier lifestyle. However, I find that I’m expected to be *available* for a much longer (nearly 7×24) time frame. Leaving work, driving home, work was cut-off at the knees. Not another thought given. Now? I am never truly divorced from my job. Much of the work I do is reliant on cloud infrastructure and I have to make sure that never goes down, or if it does, I’m instantly on top of things.
    Is it better? I guess it might be. I might only have to *work* for 10 hours a day for 4 days. But I’m always on-call. And that nagging connection never fully fades away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly what you mean. Many people shared the same sentiment with me – they are online/ available before their regular start time and after their end time. I see emails being sent at ALL times of day and night. And weekends. I read somewhere (maybe on LinkedIn?) that there is a trend emerging to include a note in your signature to the effect of “I wrote this email when it was convenient, so please don’t feel obliged to reply asap. Do it when it’s convenient for you.” I think that’s a bit much, but I understand that it might be a good reminder for some and an “off the hook” card for people who feel obliged to reply like you mentioned. I made sure with my boss to agree on regular work hours. While my hours are flexible, I am NOT expected to work/ be on call 24/7. What helps me stick to it is – no work stuff on my phone and my work computer gets switched off as I finish my work. I think you need to set boundaries before it’s too late. If you allow it from the beginning, it will only get worse. Been there, done that.

      But I get that “nagging” you mention. I keep entertaining the idea of keeping the computer on longer or just checking stuff on the weekends so that Mondays aren’t as crazy. But then I remember that reality is brutal and I shouldn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As you know, I have never been quite able to fulfil my 40 hrs. In fact, I was begging managers for work. But they know that if they give a regular employee more responsibility, their own job is in danger.
    Not once have my initiative for improvement been accepted or even looked at.
    Leaving earlier, even just 10 minutes which could save me half an hour in traffic jam, was never accepted.
    Work places are a complete mess and it’s no wonder people are frustrated and depressed.

    In European countries I have lived in, hairdressers are always closed on Mondays but open on Saturdays. Those whom I have talked to about this told me they like this concept.

    I will say that, if you can call it work what I currently do, I easily make 60 hours a week. This proves to me that I am not lazy (as my previous asshole manager claimed), but just work so much better without all the social interaction.

    Hah! I still have a paper calander! I don’t write on it though, I just like the pictures of the dogs 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny. Here, I feel like they give you as much as they can so you have no time (or brain power) to try to take their jobs. Granted, they usually delegate the “simpler” tasks so that you won’t be able to do their job just in case.

      “Not once have my initiative for improvement been accepted or even looked at.” That’s absolutely terrible. My initiatives were mostly ignored for their selfish reasons – they didn’t want to look for someone to replace me once I moved on. I hope that things are different now…

      Yea, I never understood the ‘not being able to leave 10 min earlier’ to catch a bus or whatever, especially when you can do that “work” the next day or ahead of time.

      I hear ya regarding the social interactions. Same with me working from home 😉 I don’t have to entertain random colleagues looking for someone to chat to. Or listen to some sing nearby as I try to concentrate on preparing a presentation.

      The pictures of the calendar really are half the fun!

      Like

      1. People think they get paid for responsibility. But actually it is accountability you get paid for.
        I have made this mistake in the past, asking for more responsibility, so I got all the shitty tasks nobody wanted to do.

        Probably you should have somehow established that once you started a new job, the old one was no longer you’re responsibility.
        But if you hate every minute of your workday, you get desperate and take whatever you can. It is really unfair how little power an individual has.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I always use a paper calendar and never use an electronic one. I’m old-fashioned. I’ve been working for myself for years now but when I did work for other companies I always asked for Sunday’s and Wednesdays off, as I prefer split weeks. I found many many years ago that I get a lot more done in a better way and my attitude is better when I work split weeks. My employers loved me for that because it helps with scheduling for alllll those people who like fridays/Saturdays off.

    So, because I work for myself and I firmly believe in doing what you love and working to live versus living to work, I work when I want. If I need two days off, I take two days off. If I want to work ten in a row, I do. This is also how I do schooling for my kids. If they are receptive, we do it. If they aren’t there, we don’t. This is the natural way of things and works incredibly well. So in a way, I work 24/7 but I’m flexible with the type of work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I often wondered if Wednesdays and Sundays off would work for me. It sounds like quite a solid idea, but then, knowing myself, I would probably spend both days on ‘chores’ rather than on resting. I seem to need at least 2 consecutive days.

      That’s a curious case – home-schooling when your kids are feeling it. I guess you must have some great kids that they don’t abuse the system too much.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m a firm believer in unschooling. Kids are naturally curious about the world around them. It’s taking every opportunity to make it a teachable moment. Encouraging them to ask questions by being patient and answering them. By being willing to say, “I don’t know, let’s find the answer to that”. No one is naturally inclined to sit at a desk or table and fill out paperwork and regurgitate facts. Yet that’s what drilled into them in a public school setting. Sit still, don’t ask questions, do as you’re told, don’t stand out, go to the bathroom when you’re allowed to, fit in this box. Yet we are created uniquely. Our learning should reflect that.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. “many employers are gracious enough to give you a Friday off if a national holiday falls on a Saturday and a Monday off if it falls on a Sunday” oh that would never happen over here!!! This is a good place to live but boy are people here bureaucratic and they love their rules. Don’t get me started on work -life balance, productivity and 40h weeks! It’s such an ancient system with so many arguments against it. Currently I’m angsting about having to decide my annual leave in February when summer weather here is so unpredictable. Why can’t I just spontaneously announce that hey I’ll take my four weeks off now coz the weather looks nice? I’m not doing a job like answering customer inquiries which would then stack up…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My previous employer didn’t either. If the Holiday fell on a weekend… well, it was tough luck. I SO hated it.

      February? Wow. That is quite a way off. I remember when I joined my current employer, one of my co-workers tried to have everyone submit all of their days off for the year at the beginning of the year. Everyone completely ignored it. How can you know when something will pop up, etc. Usually, they require 2 weeks notice for any prolonged time off (more than a day or so) to make sure they can arrange for coverage.

      They look at me weird when I ask for 3 weeks off (when I go to Europe) because usually there’s no one to cover my positions. lol but… they do grant it most of the time if I have enough time off accumulated. But then I come back to an Eiffle Tower of stuff to do 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, that’s quite different from us! Over here, everyone has their 4 weeks of annual leave during May-September, so it’s a juggling act fitting them together in jobs like customer service, where you always need a certain amount of staff. But for my job, it really doesn’t matter when I’m gone. Yet, we all have to get our holidays approved well in advance of the summer season…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Long weekends are fine, but it kind of depends on the job. I’m working pretty long hours right now. I don’t think I could regularly fit everything I’m doing into any less than five days, but I’m glad I got the 5th off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely understand that point. I ‘think’ that their 4-day workweek involves extra hours on those four days to make up for the 3rd day off.

      I’m glad you were able to breathe a little on the 5th, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’d be lost without my wall calendar. We use it to know what day it is and to track upcoming appointment or event. I like animals, scenery or inspirational but free are the best. (some companies still pass them out as promotional items)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was so shocked when I stopped by my auto insurance place during work hours in March or April and saw they had their own calendars. It was kind of late, but I still grabbed one for a different task I needed it for. Back in the day, I remember getting those from churches and grocery stores every year. Nowadays, it seems that not many places do that anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This year we received one from a packaging company we had ordered supplies from. Last year it was a funeral home (that also does animal cremations) that took care of Scout for us. My had one that he received from the Catholic Church this year. It used to be that banks gave them away every year but those days are gone.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I use a paper calendar to keep track of bills and appointments. I’ve been printing out the monthly online calendars because I found that I mostly use the monthly sections of my planners.

    I think it’s neat that Japan is pushing for a four-day work week. I would rather work less hours a day if I had to choose only choose one. I’d have more time to cook during the week and wouldn’t have to choose one thing over the other. I’d feel more refreshed each day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried printing those out, too! But soon found that I would forget to print it out in time or transfer everything to it. I guess I could print out a full year ahead of time and staple it together. Ha!

      I think I use the monthly planner the most myself. However, I find that the daily/ hourly planners keep me more efficient, so I try to do those. But I go through phases…

      That’s true. I totally get that. It’s really draining when you get up, work all day, and then you have to work some more at home (cooking, cleaning, etc) and then it’s time for bed. You need that extra time to just relax.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Flexibility seems to be much trendier nowadays with work at home situations. When I had to travel for work in June, I found myself pulling up Outlook and dealing with emails late at night just because it was easy and gave me more peace of mind to handle it then than later. I do think a 4-day work schedule would be pretty neat though. Weekends are too short…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know some things need to be handled ‘right away,’ but we all know that it does not apply to everyone, to each position, and each matter. So why stress ourselves and others about it? I like the more relaxed approach to email.

      And yes – weekends are absolutely too short! The only way 2 days would be enough is if I have someone do all my house-related chores and we know that’s not possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve been working three days a week for some years now. The thought of doing a ‘proper full working week’ fills me with the screaming heebie-jeebies; I remember feeling so depressed on Sundays, knowing that I’d have to, somehow, survive another five days until I could rest.

    It’s insane.

    When computers came along, they came with the promise ‘oh, they’ll make all our lives so much easier’. Nah-uh. All they’ve done is made the rich richer. The majority of us grunts still have to work like slaves, five days a week. Nothing much has changed. If non-greedy folk were in charge, they’d maybe redesign things; realise that automation means that fewer humans need to be involved in doing ‘work’, but instead of laying folks off and absorbing the profit from that, they could employ more people for fewer hours in each work week. Everybody would win. But that couldn’t happen, simply because they wouldn’t win so unfairly much.

    Glad to hear that common sense appears to be raising its head in Japan in this regard. For myself, I can’t see it happening anytime soon in ‘The Land of the Fee’, though….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It IS insane. I used to work half-days Fridays and it was so awesome. It truly made a difference for me. I miss it. I just started a new gig but am trying to figure out when/how to swing half-day Fridays again.

      As other people have noted – technology actually might make our lives harder with the expectancy of people being glued to their emails and working virtually 24/7.

      You speak the truth!

      Liked by 1 person

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