Work Life Balance Gets More Difficult Once You are on the Top

Inner Peace

The “work-life balance” is a very popular buzz word nowadays. As mentioned by Adam Tanner in his article Stricking a Balance (published in The Star on 29 March 2012), it gets harder to accomplish that balance the higher you climb up in the corporate ladder.  The higher you go, the more responsibilities and deliverables you have- you can’t afford to ‘take things easy’ and turn off your phone at times when you do not wish to be disturbed.

Corporations don’t pay you for nothing. That’s when the golden handcuffs come in.

Even though many people try to follow the guidelines in “4 Hour Workweek”, I do agree with Adam Tanner that it gets impossible when you are a GM or a VP.

“When you are part of the most important decision-making bodies of a company, there are no limits on dedication. I have little time for family or social activities, ” confesses a Chief Technology officer.

Another director of human resource said, “a call centre agent, they just leave the office and go home and not bother about anything, but if you have a position with a lot of responsibility… 24/7 availability is a given, has always been and will always be.”

That is why those at the top have to be always accessible- to have facilities like push-email (email instantly delivered to Blackberry or iPad) and the mobile phone on 24/7.  

Work related stress, or the inability to deal with the demands of work contributes to a lot of health related issue. First, there is the stress eating (but there are some lucky ones who lose apetite when under stress- lucky you!).

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Then, if you are a person who don’t particularly enjoy exercise, you may not want to force yourself to go work it out after a miserable day at work. I used to see an overweight girl walking to work near my place who have joined a gym. Initially, she used to carry her gym back on the way to work when she had just joined the club. About 2 months later, I saw that she had gained weight and I seldom saw her with the gym bag anymore.

After a hard day at work, we may just want to logon to Facebook, play computer games, watch movies, go to the pub or go for ‘some really good food’. Not getting up on our butts and moving much, and destressing using ‘comfort food’ eventually causes fat buildup and chronic disease.

Yours truly is the same here-I am gradually regaining the weight that I’ve lost- and I use my weight as a yardstick to tell me how well I am dealing with the stress.  Yet something spunky inside me would just refuse to give up and start buying a larger wardrobe.  I’ve been through worse stuff than this- and gradually, I am learning to adapt. I am learning to let go more and more- instead of strangulate myself trying to solve everyone’s problem. Now, I just have to figure out a fitness plan so that I don’t have to give up too much on my favourite foods.

What is the price you are willing to pay

I was able to take things more easy because I’ve made the decision years ago that I would not climb the corporate ladder.  Yes, money is important but it’s not everything. There are some comforts that money can bring (such as able to get someone a reasonable gift or purchasing  a BlackBerry that I really love …without burning a huge hole in my pockets), but you don’t need to be rich to be happy.

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If you earn less but you are happier- you would feel less compelled to fill that empty void in your soul by eating or shopping. Or by living beyond your means.

The above expressed is merely my humble opinion. No doubt, some would still prefer the comforts that money can bring and to be able to retire early to enjoy life.  So they work hard and reap the rewards later.

But do remember, the best part in life is often the journey… not the destination. It is important to slow down sometimes and be aware of your growing children or your aging parents or your lonely spouse and just appreciate and enjoy their company instead of spending whatever free time glued to that tiny little Smartphone or tablet.  Technology is making the world connected and accessible but it can also isolate, preventing the development of genuine relationships.

In the next post, I would share a true story that I’ve read on a millionaire who donated all his wealth to charity and choose to live a frugal life instead. Stay tuned.

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