Is the Work-Life “Balance” Killing You? One Boss Is Trying to Help

We’ve all been there.

We go to work all day, or work at home all day – and no matter how much we do, there’s always so much more to do the next day.

The work/life balance is more out of control for Americans than ever before, but there are some people who are trying to turn the tide.

Americans have typically always been hard workers.  It’s something in our culture.  We dream of “success” and “career” and the American dream — and spend our entire adult lives in a hurry.

This drive to succeed, to prove our “worth,” has become far worse in recent decades as the Internet has erased the line between work and personal life.

We get emails at all hours of the day.  We feel pressured to work on the weekends, on vacation, even at the kids’ soccer games.

There’s no way to disconnect and separate these two lives, it seems, without feeling guilty – or even concerned that we’ll be looked upon negatively by our employers.

Well, one boss understands that things have shifted in our society, and not for the better.

Ian Sohn is the President of Wunderman Chicago, a data and tech company, who understands what it’s like to balance kids and family with a fast-paced job.

The days of constantly being connected online has given many employers the idea that work can be a 24/7 part of their employees’ lives.  It seems all this technology makes it impossible to leave work behind.

But not only does Sohn understand the need for a regular schedule as a single dad, he is taking it one step further, hoping that other bosses will take something from a message he recently posted on LinkedIn.

He doesn’t want anyone who works to feel guilty for having a life outside of their jobs.

Seems simple, doesn’t it?  But it’s definitely not easy to do.

It’s not always the expectations of employers that has us working at every hour of the day.  It also has to do with expectations we put on ourselves, maybe something in society that has changed, as we constantly try to keep up and prove ourselves to others.

Sohn’s post has received tens of thousands of likes and hundreds of shares.  It is definitely resonating with employees and employers all over the country.

Sohn comprised a list of things he “never needs to know” about his employees, and it will warm your heart.

I never need to know you’ll be back online after dinner. I never need to know you’ll be in late because of a dentist appointment. Or that you’re leaving early for your kid’s soccer game. I never need to know why you can’t travel on a Sunday. I never need to know that you’re working from home today because you simply need the silence. I never want you to feel horrible for being a human being.

Sohn goes on to lament how he feels some workplaces treat their employees like children, not trusting them to meet deadlines or make the “right decisions.”  He wants the employer/employee relationship to be one of mutual trust and respect.

And he’s definitely on to something.

The United States ranked 29th out of 36 countries for “work-life balance” in a recent survey, according to The Atlantic.

Parents are overwhelmed trying to balance it all, especially women for whom there is still more responsibility in regard to the home and child care than for men.

Americans devote far more than 40 hours a week to work on average, and this extra time has to come from somewhere.

It is usually at the expense of family time or personal care.  We’re more and more exhausted every day, and all this pressure wreaks havoc on families and personal health.

Many commenters on Sohn’s post call him “brave” for saying what we all want to say – for  understanding the predicament we’re all in.

Many are asking that he lead training classes for employers on how they can encourage their employees to take a breath and restore balance, and to establish that relationship of mutual trust and respect.

Sohn is not the only one who has voiced his opinion on the negative effects of being constantly connected to work while trying to balance home and family.

This time from a woman’s perspective, author Brigid Schulte writes extensively about this issue in her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.

She had a fast-paced job as a reporter while raising two kids.  She worked at soccer games and recitals, stayed up all night baking cupcakes for school so she didn’t disappoint her kids, and spent her rare hours devoted toward sleep awake and panicking about all she had to do.

“It was madness.  I felt like I couldn’t even breathe. I felt like work was totally demanding. I always felt behind, that I wasn’t doing enough. At home, I felt like I couldn’t be the kind of mother that I thought I should be. I felt like I was falling apart at the seams,” says Schulte, according to The Atlantic.

And it seems all the self-help-work-life-balance articles out there mean well, but don’t really get it.

Things like “take up a hobby” or “plan a day away for yourself” – when do we have time for that?

Schulte says this is a “fruitless cycle” and nearly impossible for most American workers.  The balancing act is exhausting.

So, what are we to do?

Well, for starters, set boundaries, preferably before you’re hired.  Don’t feel guilty for saying you won’t be available after the traditional workday ends because your family comes first.

Since much of this guilt is self-imposed, we all need to give ourselves a break.

Studies show we’re more likely to let a family commitment slide than a work commitment, and it’s time for things to change.

We applaud Ian Sohn for his approach to being a boss – an attitude that can only foster that all-important relationship of mutual trust and respect that makes for a pleasant work experience.

Next time you get an email at 9pm when you’re tucking in the kids, think about Ian Sohn’s words and ask yourself where all the pressure is coming from.

Simply addressing the problem and finding a way to manage it – either within yourself or with your employer – may make all the difference.

Have you been struggling with your work/life balance?  How do you keep things from getting out of control?  Leave us your comments.