I had the unhappy task today of attending the funeral of my uncle. He died a couple of weeks ago aged 89 and packed a lot into those 89 years. One of the comments made about him was about his attitude to work-life balance.
Now, bear in mind that he retired in the mid-1980s and I’m not sure the phrase had been christened at that point, but he did have a firm view on how he allocated his time and energy between work and family. He was scarily intelligent (he was disappointed if it took more than 10 minutes to complete the Daily Telegraph crossword) and was employed in a senior role in a major insurance company, based in the city of London. He never once missed breakfast with his family, was always home for evening meal with them and “never did one minute of overtime, never took a work call out of hours and took two holidays every year where work was never considered.”
Of course, it’s easy to say that was a different time, before email, mobiles phones, the Internet etc. etc.
But all those things were supposed to make life better for us.
And yet this afternoon, I sat with the rest of the congregation during the service and talked to them afterwards and heard great story after story about my uncle in his work, the time he gave to good causes and how much he put in to being a husband, dad and grandfather. I wondered if any of the technological ‘advances’ of the last 30 years would have made him more admired, better remembered or more loved. I don’t think so.
As with most ‘advances’ there are choices about how they are employed, and we are complicit in those choices. If the digital age just means we all work longer, are more stressed, and don’t give our full attention to those who matter most when they need it, just to avoid being left behind, but don’t gain any meaningful advantage then what’s the point? It’s like discounting – driven by fear of missing out, but the only measurable result is reduced profit.
I would love to think that when it’s my turn (hopefully not for a long time) those who attend my funeral would say as many nice things about me as I heard said this afternoon, but I I know the work-life balance stories won’t be as glowing and that doesn’t feel good.