You are having a conversation with your son. He is 12. He is telling you all about his day at school, and you hear your phone go ‘ping’. You ignore it and carry on listening to your child, sort of, because now you are thinking about that message. Then it goes again, ‘ping’. Now you keep glancing at your phone, and your son keeps calling you, trying to get your attention back. It ‘pings’ a third time and you can’t help it. You break off your child’s story and pick up the phone because it may be your boss, secretary, client, consultant, banker…
Back in the good old days workers punched in their cards at the clock when they got to work and punched out when they left, but today the boundaries of work and private life have become so blurred that it’s almost impossible to distinguish between them. Pre-technological ‘explosion’, once you left your desk, you couldn’t really take much with you. These days we have a myriad of beeping gadgets on our persons at all times that communicate messages from all and sundry. Has the pace of life increased? Are we in need of more money to buy more things? Do we have debts and loans, credit and mortgages to pay? Are we desperate to save up for that golden dream? It is probably a conglomeration of all the above that leads the modern worker to extend business hours until eternity.
There is a quote by Henry David Thoreu: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
When Paul Herbert, author of Work-Life Balance is Dead – Now it is Life Exchange Rate read this quote he came up with the interesting idea of consolidation. Where work and life have been clearly separated and balanced in the past, in our modern society work and life are consolidated into one. In the 50’s, the husband would come home in the evening, put his briefcase down and feet up and not do another stitch of work until he arrived at the office the next day at 9am. We like to think we do something similar, but we don’t. We are checking our emails, phones and messages after dinner, before bed, before getting up, at breakfast, and alarmingly even in traffic. Herbert maintains that even though you try not to, you can’t help it.
His theory is an interesting one. Basically what he says is that the amount of things in your life that you need to give up is directly proportional to the price, which is the salary, benefits, flexible hours etc, of the job you have. In other words the more of your life you give to your job the more it is going to cost the employer at the end of the day. And lets face it, we do take those high stress, high paying jobs so that we can afford a bigger overdraft, mortgage, or to take out that short term loan for a great holiday. Interestingly Herbert also hands out a solution which quite frankly sounds enticing. He writes:
“The more you allow your employees to consolidate what you want as an employer into what they want as humans should make it more affordable – talent wise.”
Sounds a little like the Google philosophy to me!