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The Work-Life Balance Memo

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Memo dated 1 April 1 2010

Background: In recent months, we have received an increasing number of complaints from the maintenance department. These complaints report difficulty in the effective and efficient fulfillment of maintenance duties due to the presence of non-maintenance workers during late-night cleaning hours.

We have obtained corroborating evidence in the form of higher utility bills and a longer list of employees re-entering company premises after-hours in the security logbook to prove that employees overstaying in the office has become a true menace.

Recommendation: For the sake of the maintenance staff and in an effort to save on utilities and security expenses, we propose the widespread dissemination of a simple three-step, work-life balance improvement process. A non-random survey among a non-statistically sufficient sample of three employees reveals that 82.5%* of employees believe that the key to work-life balance lies in the reduction or optimization of work. This oversimplification (from three steps to one step) is the root cause of our troubles. The proposed intervention promises to remedy this mis-education.

*In spite of our attempts to coerce and unduly influence the third employee, he left undecided.

What follows is an abridged version of the three-step, work-life balance improvement process.

STEP 1: Get a Life!

The first and most important step toward work-life balance is to get a life. Those who have nothing better to do with their time may find that spending more time in the office may not be such a bad idea. It’s certainly better than vegetating on the couch, or in bed, or at a half-empty food court at eleven o’clock on a Thursday night.

If you’re serious about finding balance in work and life, you first need to have meaningful activities outside work. There has to be something (or someone) calling for you as the clock hits six o’clock in the evening every day. One easy remedy is marriage. A loving (and/or demanding) spouse and family is a commitment to life outside of work par excellence. But it can be anything really: a gym appointment, Chinese classes, a weekly movie night with friends, or volunteer work at the home for the aged. Whatever it is make it fun, make it meaningful and, most important of all, make it stick!

STEP 2: Calibrate a Personal Definition of ‘Balance’

The right amount of work and life in work-life is a personal choice. There’s no ratio that works for everyone. A single employee only two years out of college may choose to devote 90% of his or her time to work and only 10% to life, while an employee who is married with four children may choose to go 50-50, for example.

Even people who are demographically similar (i.e., same age, sex, and marital status) can have different personal values that drive varied work-life ratio choices. While work may sometimes feel like a rat race, it isn’t. It’s a race for sure, but we aren’t all rats. Some of us are beavers in baby blue bathrobes or pit bulls with pink and purple ponytails. We all race in our own idiosyncratic ways.

STEP 3: Optimize Work

Once you have a life and have defined how much of time you will spend on it, only then is it time to turn to the work side of the equation. And there are many and more ways to do this than can be discussed in a one-page memo. Here are a few of the most useful: (1) Avoid meetings like the plague, (2) Please do do what’s on your to-do, (3) E-mail others as you want them to e-mail you, and (4) Don’t sit on problems as they may just blow up in your *something other than face.*

Avoid meetings like the plague. When there are too many people in a meeting, there’s bound to be a few of them who are wasting their time there. If there are too few people in a meeting, why even call it? Just walk up to them and talk.

Please do do what’s on your to-do. Too many people have to-do lists that never get completed. Respect your own time by putting only what’s truly important on your to-do list, then make sure you complete it. It also helps to refresh your to-do lists daily.

E-mail others as you want them to e-mail you. Lots of the e-mail we get are simply useless to us. We usually can’t contribute to what’s discussed or, worse, aren’t even involved in the first place. In this sense, e-mail can be a huge time-waster. So, follow the e-mail golden rule: E-mail others only as you want them to e-mail you, that is, with respect for time and bias towards action.

Don’t sit on problems as they might just blow up in your *something other than face.* Two truisms to remember: (a) Problems without solutions aren’t problems, and (b) Real problems don’t solve themselves.

Note that focusing too early on optimizing work can be counterproductive. You need to optimize work only as much as is needed to fit your workload into your predetermined work-life balance ratio. No ratio: no target for optimization. No target for optimization: either too little or too much optimization.

Help Needed From Management:

Funding approval for an out-of-country off-site for the maintenance staff (500,000 pesos inclusive of transportation, hotel, food, and a modest amount of booze to enable swift social lubrication)

Funding approval for lunch training of the broad organization on the three-step, work-life balance process (1,000 pesos for take-out sandwich lunch, no drinks provided)

May we have your approval please?
Signed: Highly Respected Maintenance Director

Print ed: 05/10


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