Work-Life Balance

Learn how to maintain work-life and when to walk away when required.

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As technology has eaten the world, many companies that have created that technology have also eaten their people. We’re all influenced by the practices and celebrated successes of the tech giants that we see publicized in our industry, and those celebrated successes are the “unicorns,” the 10x rebels. They promote hustling hard, being disruptive, and vacuuming talent and competitors in a race to become the dominant force in the market.

We read books, watch podcasts, follow influential business people on Twitter, and slowly move the norm toward working more and more. The technology industry is obsessed with growth. Valuations of companies are typically driven by their revenue and their year-on-year growth percentage. VCs push founders and their boards to deliver significant multiples on their initial investment.

2x isn’t enough. 5x is middling to average. 10x is the number that has become a cliché: 10x thinking, 10x scaling, and 10x engineers. You may well work for one of these companies. You may be looking up at the wall of your office and seeing a slogan like, “Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done.”

Within this culture of hustle is a clear and present danger. It can promote burnout and workaholism to people that don’t have the experience to realize that it isn’t going to end well for them. This is where you can come in as a manager. You can be a counterbalance to a disease that has become endemic.

Protect your team

As a manager, you can set a strong cultural precedent by acting against a foolish culture of harder and faster at all costs. Instead, establish your own culture.

This should be where your team:

  • Works a sensible number of hours a week that allows for people to have families, dependents, children, and hobbies outside of work. Your staff should be mindful that work is only one part of their colleagues’ lives.
  • Don’t rely on messages out of hours to get things done. Move to an asynchronous communication pattern.
  • Celebrate the work that they do, whether it’s a success or a failure. You provided value for your users, or you learned of another path that wasn’t worth going down, respectively.
  • Remain focused and efficient and able to achieve their goals by saying “no” to anything that is unimportant. This is a key area where you can help.

By adhering consistently to these rules and still delivering high-quality work, you can begin to inspire a cultural shift away from being busy idiots and toward being focused professionals that do great work and have balanced lives. Work on increasing the effectiveness of the existing work hours, rather than adding more.

Walking the walk

Of course, none of this matters if you don’t do the same yourself. Don’t be a manager that encourages the previous practices but still sends emails to your team at 11 p.m. or stays in the office until 7 p.m. You need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Otherwise, you’re setting the wrong cultural precedent. You need to be aligned in your words and your actions.

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