Is work life balance important?

Have you ever read a book called ‘Chasing Daylight’ about Eugene O'Kelly who, in 2005, was CEO at accounting giant KPMG? The book explains how Eugene was so immersed in his work that over the course of a decade, he managed to have lunch with his wife only twice on week days.

So committed to the job that he once tracked down a potential clients travel plans, from New York, booked the seat next to him, schmoozed him all the way to Australia, closed the account, and then flew immediately back home. During his time at KPMG Eugene starts to suffer from severe headaches, after they become too frequent to deal with he decides to visit a neurosurgeon.

The diagnosis wasn’t good.

At the age of 53 Eugene is told that he has only 100 days to live with no hope of a cure or extended time - It was springtime which meant he wouldn’t see another winter. The book follows Eugene's last 3 months and how he faces his death and sets about trying to create as many "Perfect Moments" as he can with friends and family.

The end of the book recounts how much more fulfilled Eugene feels about the ‘soul work’ he accomplished with friends and family in his last 100 days, compared to his 30 years of corporate promotions and accolades.

This made me wonder, are we like Eugene, caught up in our working world with little notion of slowing down enough to ask the purpose of why we do what we do?

In our ‘leadership workshops’ we ask delegates to write down what they’d do if they had infinite resource (time, money, manpower etc.) in their lives. As you’d expect, the responses are often work related - And yet, given the opportunity of ‘infinite resource’ I’m surprised no-one has said they’d want to spend more time with family and friends.

Is this because we take our family and friends for granted or because it might sound weak in an environment of our fellow business peers?

A recent article in Forbes looked at the 25 biggest regrets in life in which ‘Working so much at the expense of family and friendships’ is ranked as number one.

So what's this got to do with anything?

Well it looks like we’re not learning our lesson in terms of regret as a 2015 report by the Smith Institute, a UK think-tank, discovered that British workers are actually spending longer hours at work than ever before.

Worse still, it appears they’re doing this for little or no actual (productivity) gain! Investigation revealed we’re not alone or even the worse culprits.

A report from the OECD ranks Greek workers as the longest working nation in Europe clocking 42 hours each week with, Portugal, Spain, France and Italy close behind. All these nations work longer hours than the UK which averaged out at approximately 36.5 hours, literally a day less each week than the Greeks.

What ‘Chasing Daylight’ does is highlight this issue that hasn’t improved for over a decade, despite a generational shift in our attitudes to work. It teaches us to remember that time is our most valuable commodity and to focus on what we believe really matters.

Its so important to stop every now and then and ask - Why work this hard? Why go this far? Why do it? Why sacrifice family time? Why sacrifice friendship time? Why put ourselves out? And, why give that much away?

Because, like the saying goes - 'If your why is powerful enough, then the how becomes easy.'

Interestingly its what Simon Sinek's recently discovered in his book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action when he talks about the remarkable patterns in how people think, act and communicate. It's also similar to Dan Pink's book Drive which demonstrates that to be better motivated and engaged at work we need a stronger sense of individual 'purpose' in what we're doing.

Either way, if you understand more about your own individual 'why' you’ll be better equipped in mindset, understand the sacrifices you're making and in turn, avoid any potential regrets. It's this message that resonates with us the most when reading 'Chasing Daylight' and with that said, we're off to spend some time with family and friends.

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