Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Work-life balance for in-house counsel: a contrarian view

Every day another in-house counsel discovers the myth of work-life balance. And you are not alone:
“The reality for many of us these days is that our professional lives bleed into our personal lives. . . . We check our emails in the evenings and weekends. We delay or miss family events because we can't leave the office.  And when we do, we take our communications devices with us so that we can stay connected to work.” 
This realistic perspective on work (it describes my life) is from a recent post by consultant Ron Ashkenas, Work and Vacation Should Go Together (Sept. 2011).  While most consultants would advise you to seek “more balance” between work and life (see bullets below), Ron's approach in the post is somewhat contrarian: 

Instead of pushing back or feeling resentful when work issues interrupt us, let's accept that interruptions are a part of life; whether they are caused by children, friends, family dramas, broken pipes — or phone calls during our vacations”.  And, “Maybe we need to accept the fact that the sharp demarcation between work and home is a thing of the past, and that the new normal is a life that integrates home and work more seamlessly.” 
I would concur with the wisdom of accepting the burdens that come with professional responsibilities, especially because acceptance has the added benefit of increasing your happiness factor.  See How to be more happy (or less unhappy) at your job as in-house counselNothwithstanding the benefits of accepting one's circumstances, being overworked and overstressed will eventually have an adverse impact on your success in  So do not stray too far from the more traditional approaches to work-life balance, the ones that push back (rather than embrace) the notion that work is life.  Here are few thoughts in that regard:
  • “President Obama is not the only one having to decide whether to cut or modify vacation plans at a challenging moment. . . . Everyone needs down-time to renew, reenergize, and re-bond with family. Time away while accumulating new experiences can stimulate imagination and support innovation. In short, making the link between time off and time on can be broadly beneficial.”  Should Leaders Go on Vacation? (Harvard Business School professor and author Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Aug. 2011).
  • “The digital devices we all now carry around are stunningly seductive and addictive, . . . are the means by which we get our work done, but they're also a form of digital crack.”  Take Back Control of Your Work (and Your Life) (author Tony Schwartz Mar. 2011).
  • “However much you love your job, it is a mistake to define yourself too closely to your work.”  Detach Yourself from Your Work (executive coach Gill Corkindale, Jan. 2011).
  • “How do you square working 60 hours a week with the desire to be a great spouse and parent?”  How to Stop Being a Victim of Your Own Life (Douglas R. Conant, recently retired President and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, Jan. 2011).
This summary was prepared by Perry Cone and posted at 

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