Work/life balance is a myth

Cup of tea.

Let’s be honest, a month goes by pretty quickly. And it’s been well over a month since I wrote a post about my feelings, what I’ve been up to, or anything that isn’t part of my obligatory monthly interview posts, linkups, or – wait, even Fashion Friday has disappeared. I even completely forgot to recap July. But really, let’s have some real talk.

I went to the Women in Technology Australia conference last week and if there is one thing I took away, it’s the words of Laura Doonin:

There is no such thing as work/life balance. Work and life are not separate.

It still angers me, the amount of companies that expect employees to be available after hours, the “culture” in some companies that rewards employees for working late nights or spending ten hours in the office (that doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing any work, BTW), the amount of overtime that does not get paid. I used to work for a company where you’d be scorned for not working past 6:00pm. I have friends who refuse to share their mobile phone number because they just know the amount of calls they will get outside of work hours. This has to stop.

It’s true that while our eyes sparkle over having a great work/life balance, we should not even be craving it in the first place.

I read an article recently that grinded my gears stating that it was impossible to be a good front-end developer without spending your spare time learning. Now don’t get me wrong – I love my job as a front-end developer and I do work on a few bits and pieces on the side, but in no way should an employer expect me to spend my spare time upskilling unless they were willing to reward me for my time and effort. I also don’t think it’s necessary for people to work outside of work to be better at their job. Many developers code in their spare time but they work on things they enjoy and that may not be related to what they are doing at work.

So it pains me a little to say that yes, I have been spending a fair bit of my spare time working (being paid for some contract work) but also not being paid for attending day-long meetups or workshops designed to help me better my skills. This is, of course, what I choose to do in my spare time, but it’s left very little time for blogging and that makes me sad.

It makes me sad because blogging is a huge part of who I am. I don’t want it to fizzle into nothing. When I weigh up what I care about right now, blogging is something I care about that hasn’t been given enough attention.

And bloody hell, when I find my groove again, is it going to get it.

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As soon as the clock hits 4:30pm I leave the office and don’t check my work email until the next day at 8:30am (unless it’s the weekend, of course!). I don’t do any work outside of my working hours, and I’m very good at keeping to this. I know a few people I work with will work out of office hours but I’m very strict about this. But I think it’s ridiculous when companies expect you to be available outside of working hours. Honestly, it would be enough for me to leave a job.

But saying that I think it’s hard to escape work altogether. When I get home I tend to tell Tyrone (poor sod) about my day at work, and I have a good moan about clients! It feels good to get it off my chest, and especially to tell a fellow developer because he gets it.

Towards the end of last year I was offered overtime work and I took it, but I quickly regretted it. I was getting paid time and half, but for me the money just wasn’t worth it. This experience showed me that my free time will always be much more valuable to me that money (I’m even considering cutting down my hours at work, but that’s a story for another day!).

I spend quite a bit of my spare time working on coding projects, but they’re rarely ever related to what I’m doing at work. For instance, I spend a lot of time working on PHP and backend WordPress stuff, which I don’t do at work because I’m a front-end developer and we have our own CMS. I do PHP and WordPress stuff in my spare time because it’s my hobby and I love it (okay and maybe one day it will help me to get a different job!).

At work, I suggested that we are given time without our working hours to develop our skills, so I think they’re looking into this now. Maybe like a Friday afternoon off to look into new developments. It’s not like we do any work on a Friday afternoon anyway!

I feel like I come from a family of workaholics. The idea, on my paternal side, is to be happy with what you get and go to the ends of the earth for your employer if that’s what it takes. They’re not the happiest of peoples within their jobs and doing this, of course, which doesn’t do so great in encouraging us younger folk to “have a life” outside of work, of whatever—which, I guess, is owed in part to the lifestyle in which women are raised to please men, and men are meant to be bosses, and all that other ridiculous mumbo-jumbo.

I do wish there was a work-life balance. I wish workplaces also respected boundaries—be it work hours, personal information, religious holidays and celebrations, etc.

The myth of the work-life balance reminds me of the plot of The Devil Wears Prada (the movie; I bothered not with reading the book). I wasn’t a fan of it, though it seemed everyone and their mother loved it, because to me, it touched this hard—that you have to devote your life, even your health, to a job; your boss doesn’t have to care about your well-being; and other types of BS.

I hope you may be able to find some time soon. If not before your wedding, then perhaps after, since you’ll no longer have that to stress over? ❤

So far I’ve been lucky and always worked at places that for the most part respect the working hours and don’t expect their employees to work overtime unless it’s absolutely necessary. Maybe because I live in a small town and people are pretty chill in general here? Country folk and all that, lol 😛

But I’ve noticed a general trend in the world of coding/programming that there’s this idea that you should spend all your time coding to be any good. It’s not just the companies, it’s a large number of the developers themselves too. I’ve seen plenty of devs use “9-5 developers” like an insult and behave like it’s a dirty thing to have a life outside of coding. Like, if you’re not working overtime at your regular job you should at least spend your free time on side projects and learning new skills and if you don’t… well, obviously you’re a bad dev and obviously not passionate about coding.

Personally, I think that’s ridiculous. I already spend 8 hours/day coding at work, it’s not unreasonable that I want to do something else with my spare time. I have a home and a spouse and pets and friends and other hobbies I want to pursue. As much as I like building stuff for the web it’s not my one and only passion in life, and it shouldn’t have to be either. Imo a good company allocate time for their employees to learn and evolve on the job, it should not be expected that they do it in their spare time.

I hope you get your blogging groove back, but you also seem to have a lot on your plate right now, so do take care and don’t stress yourself out in the process. 🙂

amen to this post! like holly, once i’m done, i’m done. i leave the office at around 7~8pm and when i’m home, i unwind and do my thing. i don’t touch anything work-related and i don’t open mails. granted, the company i work at is pretty chill as long as we do our job right and reach the deadline. i work in a start-up and we only have like 7 employees in total so we don’t have that strict expectation where an employee has to work overtime and shit like that. thank god for a laid-back environment or i’d go batshit crazy. i mean yea, sometimes my job is stressful because i’m the only ux designer and the others are developers but the fact that my boss or manager never insists i work overtime or once my office hour ends is just satisfying. i cannot imagine those who work in huge corporates and are bombarded with those…rules. that must suck so bad (and that just elevates my fear towards big corporates.) this also reminds me of how some – if not most – huge corporates don’t really care about their employees at all. my boyfriend’s dad used to be a manager in a television station company but when he fell ill, the company (who was then bought by a bigger corporate which my bf dubbed as E-Corp aka evil corp) “removed” his dad like he was a tool. i also remember how my bf’s dad told him to never be a workaholic because employers don’t really care about your health; they only care about you as a tool to reach end result so they can gain profit. while this isn’t particularly true to ALL employers, the general concept is kinda true imo. i’m not sure how it is in your country but in indonesia, big bosses and huge corporates tend to treat employers as nothing but that: tools.

i myself am a workaholic person and sometimes, i overdo it at work because i fear of underperforming myself. i think it all comes down to us individually. do we want to be a workaholic 24/7 who doesn’t stop and unwind and would rather accept calls and mails during the weekend or do we want to set a boundary between work and private life? i personally would rather pick the second option. after all, i still wanna have some time to play my games or update my blog.

I’m entering that phase now. I am still in training at my new job but my timings post training are going to be super horrid (1 pm to 10 pm) and I know it is going to be super hard to strike a balance between work and life! I don’t even know if I will get time to pick up a book and read or to hit the gym!

I often stay late at work and can’t recall the last time I left work on time or worked my standard hours. I don’t check my work email in the evenings but have been known to log in first thing in the morning, on a day off or on a national holiday where I know the rest of the world is still working and we’ll have hundreds of emails flying in.

I spend a lot of my spare time going to conventions or fetes and fayres, relaxing at home and going to the movies.

I actually miss the commute home from my old job. I loved having 40 minutes after work before I got home where I was incommunicado, I could just sit back on my seat on the train, put my headphones on and decompress. I could leave work in that city over there and the journey relaxed me so by the time I got home, I’d left it all behind. My 20 minute drive home in traffic – especially when work has me stressed – just winds me up more!