Some Cities Make Balancing Work and Personal Life More Difficult Than Others
I’ve discussed work-life balance fairly often here, and how a thoughtful approach to using new technology can help achieve that balance. We’ve observed that, on the one hand, technology has seemed to extend the workday by bringing the boss, the office, even those digital files as close as a few taps on your smartphone. But I have also pointed out that both in the office and at home, technology has provided many opportunities for us to be more efficient with our time, leaving the choice of how we use that reclaimed time up to us.
Last week I read an article based on recent research done by Expert Market, about cities with the best work-life balance. Though it considered only the average number of hours worked annually, the results still proved interesting. If I asked you to name the most “workaholic” city in the United States, you’d probably guess New York City. Most movies depict New Yorkers as obsessive over-achievers, and “the city that never sleeps” must spend some of those extra hours working, right?
Perhaps at the other end of the spectrum you might expect to find Los Angeles, with its laid-back “California” atmosphere and so many alluring ways to spend leisure time. The truth is, you’d be wrong in both cases.
And The, Winner Is…
Of the four large U.S. cities examined in the study, the hardest (or at least longest) days were put in by workers in Los Angeles, who work an average of 4.2% more hours in a year than New Yorkers. And even worse was Chicago; maybe we should call the city of broad shoulders the city of slumped shoulders; workers in the Windy City put in 9% more hours of work annually than their New York counterparts.
This “time on the job” statistic is significant in any discussion of work-life balance since clearly the more hours spent doing your job, the fewer are left to distribute among other things important in your life, like family, relaxation, hobbies, etc. But the study looked at another relevant factor, too.
Vacation an Indicator, Too.
Information was also gathered about the average number of vacation days taken each year by workers in each city. Once again, New York surprised me. The study showed that workers in both Los Angeles and Chicago took about 14 vacation days per year, while New Yorkers enjoyed nearly twice as many days off.
In work/life balance, vacation is a meaningful stat, as well. Often the only time families can really spend significant time together (unplugged and really away from the daily pressures of work and life) is when they are on vacation. A slightly shorter work day may help, but extended periods away, usually with a change of scene, can allow for more “decompression” and more prolonged interaction with loved ones.
What Does It All Mean?
The study doesn’t consider everything. Perhaps the long commutes in Los Angeles are added in the workday totals, and the early closing of financial markets has an impact in New York. And there is undeniably more to work-life balance than the hourly total.
To me, it just reinforces the fact that each worker and each company has to strike their own best version of “work-life balance” depending upon the industry, the helpful technologies available, and the company culture. And that “efficiency” part is huge. Whatever time technology saves can be used for something else. And it’s hard to imagine that enhanced productivity won’t ultimately provide a great reason and a great opportunity to get more balance in workers’ lives.
Here at Superior, we deal with both sides of the equation. Our whole business model is built around saving companies time, money and resources by increasing efficiencies in their print supply chain and promotional product management processes with services, products and technology like our Corporate Kiosk…and did I mention saving their employees time in the process. But our customers and our suppliers are in many different zip codes and times zones and our employees from sales to accounting must frequently go above and beyond in order to deliver the quality and service we deliver. We appreciate it, and don’t take their dedication for granted.
One more thing, some employers (not many, I hope) see “work-life balance” as a code for employees just wanting more time off, or more flexible schedules. Truth is, there are many benefits to a good work-life balance and I’ll talk more about those on Thursday. Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts about hours, workdays, vacations or Corporate Kiosk technology– I’d like to hear your perspective. Give me call or leave a comment below.