Work-Life Balance

October 17, 2008

True freedom is waking up and deciding what you want to do with your day.  – The Color Purple.

Europeans, on average, live longer than Americans even though they smoke more, drink more and eat all the foods we can’t like real butter, rich and creamy sauces and white flour in their pasta, pastries and breads.   How do they do it?  They know a few things about balance.  

Europeans value time off so much that many countries have a mandatory five week paid vacation allotment for all workers.  In the US we are lucky if we get 2 weeks a year and most don’t even take it when it is offered.   Unlike the rest of the developed world, we call people that work less than 50 hours a week slackers – a negative connotation to be sure.  We feel guilty taking vacations and we carry our Blackberries and cell phones as if the entire free world rests upon our shoulders.  I have a secret…it does not. 

We pay a lot of lip service to family values, but what do we know about valuing families?  Yesterday I was fortunate to be a chaperon on my son’s fourth grade field trip.   At each station, as the kids were learning about pioneer life in our area, at least one parent was busy on their electronic appendage.  I don’t fault these parents, they are tied to their jobs by the electronic revolution.  Bosses provide these tools and expect them to be available and to keep their jobs, they are available…but meanwhile their kids are missing out; missing out on a parent that is fully there ‘in the moment’ just for them. 

Europeans know that families are important and family life is important (which is why they typically have shorter work weeks and longer maternity and paternity leaves).  They know that time off and relaxation are vital to healthy, happy workers.  They know that a long healthy life must have balance.   They know that workers shouldn’t have to choose between making a living and being with their families.   They support and pay higher taxes to ensure that no one has to work two weeks after having a baby, to provide paid vacation, paid maternity leaves, and basic health care for one and all. 

In other words, Europe works to live.  America lives to work.

Balance isn’t easy to achieve in this tumultuous time.  We are told that to keep our jobs we have to work more, be in the office more, stop working at home and generally sell our souls to the company just so we can keep our livelihood building other people’s riches.

October 24th is Take Back Your Time Day.   Visit to find out what you can do to promote public policy that helps American workers find a reasonable work/life balance.


Time Deficit

January 20, 2007

Did you know that Americans work, on average, 350 hours longer annually than their European counterparts?   Did you know that the United States one of the only countries in the industrialized world that does not have mandatory annual leave requirements and encourage workers to not take vacations?   Did you know that European countries have annually 5 weeks leave, Canada and Japan each have 2 weeks leave mandated by the government? (Information provide by Take Back Your Time at

What do the other countries know that we do not?  They know that a rested worker is a productive worker.  They know that to keep an employee they have to value employees and that includes employees’ time away from the job.

People complain daily that their lives are too busy to exercise, to eat right or to just hang out with their families.  Families feel pressure more than ever before, with kids having unprecedented stress levels.  Convenience foods loaded with fats, chemicals and toxins are chosen over healthy whole foods that take longer to prepare because families and parents just do not have time to prepare wholesome quality meals.  Our waist lines are growing along with our dependence on caffeine and mood stabilizing drugs such as antidepressants. Work hours are increasing while Americans are reporting unprecedented levels of dissatisfaction with their lives. 



Why are we working so hard? The American Dream?  What is that anyway?   Is it the latest game console or the latest $40,000 vehicle?    Does it mean having to park your expensive vehicles in the driveway because your garage is packed with stuff acquired and discarded?  Does any of that stuff make you feel more or less satisfied? 



The meaning of life – is to live it – unknown.