Work/life balance

I came across this blog post (via) on adjusting one’s life circumstances, priorities or balance, and it’s an interesting way to think about things. I don’t know if it’s correct or useful, but I’m always open to thinking about the same old things in a different way. But this bit jumped out at me as feeling wrong:

To take a simple example “work life balance” is extremely hard in a traditional industrial environment, where “work” happens at the workplace, and “life” happens at home.

But it is much easier in (say) a Googleplex-like workplace with childcare, gyms and healthy food options available right near your office.

My initial, possibly contrary, instinct is that this is the wrong way round. If much of your personal life (childcare, recreation) revolves around your employer and your workplace, that sounds like a bad example of work/life balance.

Being able to separate work and personal life seems more healthy to me. Of course, this depends on how long you spend working, how much the work takes out of you (mentally and physically), and how long you spend getting to and from work, but still, separating the two parts of life seems like a good thing.

Which isn’t to say one’s workplace should be unfriendly, unwelcoming and not fun, or your work activity should be something you’d never do at home, or you shouldn’t see coworkers outside of work… just that having work provide or take over what would otherwise be entirely separate and personal seems a little… unhealthy? dependent?

(This post brought to you by my much neglected “tweet less, blog more, blog more quickly,” impulse.)


  • Google provides all those things to keep people in the office for longer hours, and in many cases to encourage the long term dependence of its recently-graduated employees on dormlike conditions. It's totally rational but sometimes I wish they'd put energy into supporting public schemes like their transportation network instead of paying for private versions. The public/private balance here is another side to the work/life balance, and company towns always look like an attractive option until they stop growing or go bust.

  • Yes, I realise it's nothing new to question companies making their workplaces all nice and friendly, and it's always grated with me a bit. A good point about the public/private balance... founding or supporting local childcare for the neighbourhood generally would seem a much better balance than distorting the local market by setting up their own in-house versions, for example.

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