Having days off a novelty? A work-life balance comparison

One of my friends, who unfortunately still works for an Evil Empire, sent me a note the other day expressing how elated she was to finally have a day off, after working 7 days/week for many months in a row.  As I thought about how happy I was for her, I remembered that, once upon a time as a Yoga Studio Manager, I too had felt that way.  She is now experiencing the same kind of brainwashing that I had succumbed to for the past few years and truly believes it is a treat to have one of those rare days off where she could actually experience some semblance of the work-life balance that upper management pretends to promote as a core value of their company.  That’s right, I said Yoga Studio….we’ll come back to that.

It got me reminiscing about a wonderful company I was employed by, for over a decade, prior to the Empire, a successful marketing firm – yes, Marketing….hold onto that detail, too.  This company has not only been in business for 30 years, but they have retained many of the same people who had been employed upon their start up.  In this day and age, does that sound unusual to you?  It should.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average length of employment in 2010 at any one job was 4.4 years.  Many companies are finding it challenging to retain excellent employees, with efficient track records, and keep them happy for the long-term.  Baby Boomers alone change jobs about 11 times during the course of their careers.  So how can a Marketing firm preserve so many long standing relationships?  The simplest answer is that the President understands a very basic economic concept:  continue to maximize his resources in order to make everyone better off, and resource number one for his company is its human capital.  (That makes people sound like a commodity, which we are….from an economic stand-point.)  The company has saved the human aspect, however, because they need the creative ideas and flawless execution of their staff or the marketing firm floats commonplace amongst hundreds of other agencies.  Thus, they believe the people that work for them are indeed their greatest resource to insure the delivery of an excellent product.  Their primary product is their overall image and reputation needed to retain and obtain business.

My former employer saw their employees as more than just capital, they saw us as humans.  We were treated like family and in a way we were one.  No doubt, when you spend so many hours of the day with the same people, you begin to appreciate one another as more than just what you do for work.  We fostered a genuine amount of respect and care for everyone on our team.  We celebrated the good times and mourned the bad together, pitched in to help one another out when things got tough, and had alot of fun together along the way.  All of the “Fun Fridays”, Lunch BBQ’s, Poker Nights at the President’s House, and mandated personal time off certainly helped demonstrate that we were not just something to be manipulated and used for corporate gain, but we were valued and expected to take care of ourselves so that we stayed healthy and productive.  The President was adamant that we all needed proper rest, rejuvenation and time away from work to feel refreshed and happy while we were at work – THIS is work-life balance.  Although his reasons for our well being were selfish, they were honorable and benefited everyone in the long term.

When you factor in the opportunity cost of how many hours of out of life are invested at work, especially when you are paid a salary, remember to divide the REAL number of hours you spend working.  This includes the time spent at the place of business, as well as at home doing payroll (while drinking a bottle of wine) by your total salary.  When I ran the numbers on what I made as a Studio Manager, and matched that up against competitive hourly wages in the market, I was appalled to learn that a FRY COOK at McDonald’s made more than I did.  Exactly what did I need a college degree for then?  My advice to you the next time your Regional Manager asks you to come in on a Saturday, or a Sunday, or any other absurd and unacceptable time of day/week all in the name of “yoga” and for the sake of their “customer experience”, because their company is more valuable to them than your health, well-being, or happiness, and you will undoubtedly agree (because they have you acting like a raging co-dependent at this point in your career) and go running to please their unrelenting demands in hopes of getting your bonus that they dangle in front your cute little nose every F***ing quarter.

All I ask is that when you do, don’t forget to say, just as sweet as pie, “Do you want fries with that?”