Are we demonstrating work-life integration for the next generations…?

Kimberley our Managing Editor and I were talking about the important balance (or integration) needed between work, home and hobbies. The subject was prompted by a conversation that she overheard on the bus between two undergraduate students from UBC.

It began as a discussion about the workload for a particular class, but quickly devolved into a who-works-harder spat with a distinctly competitive edge. One had pulled an all-nighter to finish three essays due on the same day; the other hadn’t eaten in twelve hours because he was so distracted by work at the library. One sacrificed his mother’s birthday dinner to finish a 5000-word book review, the other a basketball game to complete a biology lab.

As a recently graduated MA, Kimberley knows better than most that school is tough. It’s barely real life: deadlines loom, social and athletic responsibilities pile up, sleep is an afterthought (if it happens at all). The problem, however, is that university is a formative time in people’s lives; it’s meant to prepare young adults for the world ahead. Instead, what they often learn is over-exhaustion, imbalance, and a system of self-worth where the value of work is decided by a hastily written grade.

As a result, the romanticization of exhaustion isn’t just characteristic of universities. It’s replicated in the workplace. We’ve been brought up to see value in those who show up first and leave the office last, or put in weekend hours to get an early start on upcoming projects. Hard work is important, absolutely – there is a time and a place for pouring your energy into your career – but not every day. Not all your energy.

I’m a big supporter of the work hard, play hard lifestyle. Workplace culture can advocate a balanced lifestyle in which family relationships, workplace productivity, and mental and physical health are all prioritized. It isn’t a question of sacrifice. Employees who feel fulfilled in life outside of work produce better results, and managers who are staunchly supportive of their workers’ rights to balanced lives enjoy better relationships with those employees. Conflict happens less, burnouts happen less, and as a result – productivity increases.
There will be times that certain aspects of life require more attention than others. But let’s stop judging the value of one’s work through the hours spent agonizing over its production. Balance isn’t something to be ashamed of – it’s something to actively pursue.

What behaviours have you been doing that don’t match your intent?

Written in collaboration with Kimberley our Managing Editor.