Can’t Live Like This Forever

I was reading this article the other day, Turnover is Turnover: What Churning Employees Says About Your Culture, when this passage struck me:

Even now, with a new title and lots more money, she said that she will eventually leave. Working 50-60 hours is commonplace, and she said that she cannot live the rest of her life like this

I stopped and thought about this for a minute, and how it applies to certain fields. In IT and Legal, two fields I am intimately familiar with, it is commonplace, and expected, that you work that much, but should it be? Are we driving really good people out of the industry because of this expectation? Let’s leave the question of whether it is possible to have a family life and continue to work those sorts of hours, and look at whether it’s even possible to have much of a social life when you work that much? How do you make plans for any evening during the week? How do you get personal errands taken care of during business hours when you work that much? How do you, god forbid, take a vacation?

The answer, of course, is that you don’t. Your life is out of balance and you suffer the consequences of that. Most of us are willing to make that sacrifice to get ahead, or advance in our career, but I’m not sure all that many people would be willing to do it for the entirety of their lives. That way can only lead to burnout, and unhappiness. When I look back at my experiences, this is what I see. I can work 50-60 hours per week for some time, but it leaves me unhappy and unbalanced. I never feel content, there’s always something else that needs to get done, so I never just relax, I never feel like I can disconnect, etc. Oh sure, I feel important, but that sense of importance isn’t worth all of that.

Of course, I also realize that I now hold a job that requires me to travel quite a bit, and that presents the same kinds of challenges. I may not be putting in 60 hours every week, but not being home is not being home, regardless of what the work day looks like. It’s hard to have much of a social life, it’s hard to be as involved with my wife as I’d like to be, and it can be just plain exhausting sometimes. As much as I’m enjoying the adventures of traveling and working with new groups of people at every stop, I have to face the reality that I may well burn out. I don’t know if I want to spend the rest of my working life like this. Right now, I don’t know that I don’t want to either. We’ll see what happens, but one thing I do know, is that I need to be prepared to move on when the travel load is no longer good for me, just as the women in the article has to be prepared to leave, because the job isn’t going to change.

But, maybe the job should change instead of burning out everyone who holds it? What do you think?

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