Work as Excuse

What's your excuse?

Periodically work life balance regains momentum as we discuss ways to encourage employers to find options to drive a more flexible and managed work schedule. Believe me, if you are new to HR and looking for areas to make a difference you could do worse than to develop expertise in creative work schedules.

The assumption of course is that employers by and large are uncaring entitites more interested in face time than productivity. My own experience doesn't reflect this. Every place I've been (admittedly not a scientific sample) employers were happy to let workers flex schedules to accommodate their personal lives as long as the work got done.

That's really the key: is the work getting done, and done well?

And in a more perfect [work] world that would be all that we need to address when worklife balance comes up. But there's another side, a darker side that has less obvious answers and solutions but needs to be addressed: the worker who won't leave.

You Don't Have to Go Home But You Can't Stay Here

Seldom do we talk about the office clinger, the person who won't leave, but isn't this a question of work life balance too? It isn't that they have projects that are late or deadlines to meet they just have no other life. You've seen this person. They –

  • Are among the first to arrive – every day
  • Seldom leave before their workmates often joking about turning out the lights
  • Make Saturdays and Sundays office time more than a little
  • Bemoan holidays when the office is closed
  • Eat at their desk regularly while never hitting a happy hour
  • Frequently seem covered up with work for no real reason

What are we to do with the person who won't leave?

The opportunist among us would say that's great, we need more people chained to the desk, but that's a reaction, not the truth. The truth is this constant presence in the office is overbearing, risky and unhealthy in the end.

Office mates are humans, not furniture: we need variety, we need to take vacations, and leave early and have out of office days. Omnipresence turns us shallow, a mere vaporous image of what once was a fully-dimensional human. And more than one business has suffered financial loss or policy breach as those who are wedded to the office find flaws in systems and controls and exploit them (intentionally or accidentally is another question) simply due to their constant presence in the building. There's a reason many businesses have forced time away policies.

Finally, the over reliance on the office environ and colleagues is unhealthy for growth and stimulus. Mathematically the more time we give our professional life the less we give our social and personal lives. There's just no way to put more than 24 hours in a day – there's no app for that. So more time at work has to subtract from something else.

Like living a balanced life.

Whether its a management question, a wellness issue or an HR problem the reality is its not good business to allow employees to become so tethered to the office they don't want to leave. Therefore part of the worklife balance equation has got to include some sense of managing one's own life. Hanging around the office more than one needs to isn't good for anyone.

Want more worklife balance in your office? Remind your employees to get a life.



2 thoughts on “Work as Excuse

  1. Great point – often the focus is on the employees who are considered slackers or who abayas the system. Rarely do we comment on the person who is on the other end of the pendulum. I often wonder why – do they feel they have to? Are they looking to avoid other parts of their life? Are they in over their head in their job? Or do they truly love what they do? Well done my friend.

    • Thank you Julie! I find it an interesting and somewhat sad question: are they staying at work to avoid a bad home life? Do they no have other outlets? Are they in fear of losing their job? I can think of few positive things that would compel workers to stay late beyond what is required on a routine basis.

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