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January 24, 2016

Working More, Playing Less

Working More, Playing Less

Even though I’m single and I have no biological kids – unless you count the 1,000 kids under my watch each weekend – I struggle with work-life balance like most of my friends who truly care about performing well. Driven, successful people want to feel great about what they do. They want to be examples for others. I guess that if I had kids, knowing how critical it is to spend real time with your child, I would force myself to stop working as much as I do, or maybe I’d work even harder or sleep far less or hire someone to help, which would then force me to work more hours to pay for that person. And I honestly don’t think having a partner would do much to change this complex situation given how hard it is to provide for children these days and how costly it is to go to nice places and do fun things. Whoever said the comment about it all being a rat race was right. At the end of the day, how do we prevent ourselves from being a bunch of rats?

What’s tough is that I don’t think the work force cares anymore or discriminates based on those who have minimum wage jobs (or two) or those who are running Forture 500 companies or those like me who are running their own business and on 24-7. An article ran last week that said 60 percent of Americans are one paycheck away from poverty. Executives always fear a bad quarter. My clients (parents) expect me to be on seven days a week. They also want my director of ops to be on seven days a week – even though we work long days on Saturday and Sunday. It’s because more and more parents are working seven days a week – not just in taking care of their families, but in just trying to hold down their jobs, keep up, stay ahead. I see parents at my games who when their kid is not on the floor, they are reading briefs or replying to emails. Some are in the hallway on conference calls with the mute button on. It’s not just on weekday games, but during weekend games. It never stops.

I started googling more info on this subject. The info on the Chinese is scary on two levels – not just in how they take less vacation time, but in how many vacation days they are actually given. Then after reading more and more on the topic (cliff notes below), I decided this is crazy – then I stopped and said, “Wait, you are working right now – on a Sunday night. You’re putting all this pressure on yourself. Finish the piece and … wait, I have three more things to do tonight.”

I wouldn’t let my staff do it, but I do it to myself. And that’s the issue with so many people I know. It’s almost like we can’t stop unless we call each other out on it, or if we start logging our hours, which is a serious step I may make this week. If I have the time.

Recently an old friend from Northwestern called me out on it. He invited me on a vacation with a group of professionals in a beautiful cabin rental. “Don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll all be on vacation together and all of us will be working.” After 20 years of saying a polite “No, thank you” to go this February ski trip to Jackson, Wyoming, a place I’ve never been, I finally said yes. I built in a leg in Chicago on the way back where I’ll catch two basketball games. The entire airfare for the trip – thanks to credit card miles—cost me $27. The tough part will be my coming up with a balanced plan to enjoy it.

Maybe after reading these numbers from a September 2015 story in MarketWatch, you’ll at least consider making time for a vacation or a working vacation.

  • Over 72% of Chinese workers have not taken a paid vacation in the last three years, according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency,cited by the New York Times.
  • Workers in the European Union are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days a year — and 25 or even 30 days a year in some European countries. Chinese workers who have been employed between one and 10 years are entitled to five days, and entitled to two weeks between 10 and 20 years’ service, the China Law Blog notes.
  • The situation is better — if far from ideal — in the U.S. Employees only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off, according to another recent survey of 2,300 workers who receive paid vacation. The survey was carried out by research firm Harris Interactive for the careers website Glassdoor. What’s more, 61% of Americans work while they’re on vacation, despite complaints from family members; one-in-four report being contacted by a colleague about a work-related matter while taking time off, while one-in-five have been contacted by their boss.
  • Some 40% of Americans will leave vacation time on the table, a third study found, citing a post-recession “work martyr complex” among worker who feel tied to their desk. The study by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications and the U.S. Travel Association — which obviously has a vested interest in workers using up all their paid vacation time — found that one-third of the 1,000-plus respondents say they cannot afford to take their time, 40% fear returning to a mountain of work and 35% believe no one else can do their work.

Read full article in MarketWatch: