Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hard to hit the "off" switch outside the office

The mythical work-life balance remains a myth for me as I suspect it is for many in-house counsel. Just to prove how hard it is to follow even good advice, here I am at home this evening writing this blog post about turning "off" my work mode at home at night.

I was inspired by Overcome Your Work Addition, which posits that those who visualize themselves as "workaholics" might actually be "successaholics." Rather than some deep-seeded satisfaction from working long hours, "successaholics" are obsessed with work "because of the satisfaction we get from the kudos for achievement."

A leadership professor at Harvard Business School, Leslie Perlow proposes that a little positive reinforcement from teammates might assist even the most hardened successaholic in achieving freedom from always being "on." To prove her point, Professor Perlow conducted an experiment with the executive education students in her business class.

She divided them into teams and required each team member to “turn off for one night a week” starting at 6pm. Sounds great so far (if not a little scary). The executives/students were instructed to “do absolutely no work — not even to check their wireless devices” – “even if suddenly there was a client deliverable the next day.” Sounds impossible!

As reinforcement, “team members were publicly applauded for taking their time off — even the night before a major deliverable — and they were shunned for failing to take their nights off.” Apparently, the experiment worked, and business executives in the class admitted that, once they acknowledged being “successaholics,” it made it easier to take that needed time off during the week.

If you're having difficulty achieving work-life balance, start by reading Overcome Your Work Addition, read a few more posts on work-life balance, and then see if you can get your work team to try the experiment with you. As for me, this is not the evening to experiment, as I have another post to write as soon as I finish this one. Good night.

This summary was prepared by Perry Cone and posted at 

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