Strategies For Solving the Work/Life Dilemma (cont.)

Some other hints -- simple things about setting some rituals around the end of the day, so that if you have a commitment at the end of the day to play tennis or do something else, so that you're obligated to leave the office, to always make that commitment with another person, because people are better at keeping commitments to other people than themselves. Those are a couple things for people wanting to set boundaries. The other area if you're working full time, is to think about your own work style, and where that might be helping you versus hindering you. So many people had conquered their own perfectionism; there's an old saying that if you want something done the way you want it done, you have to do it yourself. Recognizing when something is very good, and appropriate, and letting it go, will create a lot of freedom for you. In terms of other changes for working full time, telecommuting is an excellent way to save time. Even if you do it one day a week, you're eliminating the commuting time. If you have an hour commute in each direction, that'll save you 2 hours for something else. Technology makes that so possible today. Many people telecommute full time, but if you're in a situation where you have to be at meetings, etc., we learned of police officers who telecommute one day a week, and you may think that impossible, but they have paperwork to do that they can do at home. Some nurses did some case management and updated files from home. There are ways to think about how you work and what you do, and isolate work that can be done at home that can save you that commute.

Moderator: There's been a lot of controversy about favoritism in the workplace to people who have children, or leave early for family reasons. Do you think this is unreasonable? Is it every man or woman for themselves?

Sirull: We approach the work/life dilemma having nothing to do with people having children or not. Everyone is entitled to a life, and work is only a part of life for everyone. What you choose to do with the rest of your life is up to you; we encounter people working part time because they wanted to train for the Olympics, or because of a big volunteer commitment. I think that differentiating by whether people have children doesn't help anybody, and we're working towards making it possible for everyone to solve their work life dilemma in a way that works for them. We also suggest to people that they work together with co-workers, to try help each other address their life needs. We encountered teams of people who were getting together at the beginning of a project, and in addition to identifying each of their roles in their project, they were then attempting to arrange the project so that each person would get some of their work/life needs met. So we encourage people to work with their colleagues; a number of people we spoke to wanted to do cross-training, so they could pick up the slack for a colleague on Monday nights, and their colleague would help out on Tuesday nights. Whatever reason you have to leave work for your life, the question is how we can all work to get the work done effectively, and also have a life?

Moderator: What tradeoffs do you feel people should make when choosing between their life and work? Is it always money vs. time?

Sirull: I think the first answer is that the tradeoffs I should make are not the ones you should make -- there is no real should. It should be about the ones you make for you. There are none that people should or shouldn't make. It's about you as an individual, and looking at the tradeoffs that work best for you. Many people don't think they're making tradeoffs, and they're simply making them subconsciously, because you do it everyday whether you know it or not. For example, we encountered a woman who said that she wanted to be a very hands-on parent, but when we asked her about her life, she said she left for work 8 in the morning, and came home 7 at night. She was making tradeoffs. Another woman wanted to be active in her community, and she was on the board of an organization, but when we asked her about it, she hadn't been to a meeting in months. Neither of those people thought of them as tradeoffs, so you need to think about the tradeoffs best for you. It's not always tradeoffs of time for money, though sometimes it is. Sometimes it can be the work you're doing, or the way you're working. Again, you need to consider the tradeoffs that you want to make. If you want to work part time, you'll make less money than if you work full time.

Moderator: Are people working more and spending less time with their family? Do you think this is a change from say 10 years ago?

Sirull: I think that studies show that Americans are working longer; that we work more hours than any other industrialized nation. But there are a small number of people who are saying "no," that they love their work but there is more to life than work. You can have a satisfying career that is financially reasonable without being all consuming. But that's up to you; the work is yours to do. We make suggestions for how companies can help employees to do that, and it benefits companies in terms of employee retention, but it starts with you as an individual; you have to understand what you want and make that work.

Moderator: If someone wanted to have you give a seminar at their place of work, how would they do that?

Sirull: They would email me at bsirull@compuserve.com. I would be happy to communicate with you-- if you sent me your phone number, I'd certainly call.

Moderator: How can someone measure their success?

Sirull: I think each person needs to define what success is to them; we have a wonderful exercise in the book that asks you to write down what your life would have to look like so you can call yourself successful. And it's a concrete thing -- I would be doing this in my life, this would have to happen. A real description of your life being successful, and if you write that down, it's a powerful tool to move you towards achieving it.

Moderator: In your opinion, how many people need more collage type of lifestyle in their lives?