Nigel Marsh is best known for his creative pursuits. As well as the author of three books – Fat, Forty and Fired, Overworked and Underlaid and Fit, Fifty and Fired-Up – he is also the co-founder of Earth Hour and the founder of the Sydney Skinny.
Nigel used to be a ‘corporate warrior’ – working and eating too much and neglecting other aspects of life. He took a year off, and when he returned he studied and struggled with work-life balance. Here is what he learned:
- We need an honest discussion about work-life balance. However, some jobs seem to be incompatible with daily engagement with a young family. Flexi time and casual fridays do not do enough to fix this issue.
- Governments and corporations will not solve this issue for us. We need to take responsibility for the type of life we want to lead, and setting the boundaries of our life. Even the good companies will try to get as much out of you as they can.
- We need to be careful of the timeframes when we will achieve our work life boundaries. We need to be realistic about what personal activities we can do around an ideal work day, but we can’t fall into the trap of delaying everything until we retire, or until our children grow up.
- We need to approach balance in a balanced way. Some people see balance as an ability to go to the gym more. We need to make time to satisfy all our physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional needs. This can be daunting, but the small things matter.
We don’t need to completely upheave our life, and if everyone starts to make small changes we can alter our definitions of success (away from ‘whoever dies with the most money wins’).
Thousands of people are currently quietly screaming desperation, long hard hours at jobs they hate to buy things they dont need to impress people they don’t like.
Jason Fried thinks deeply about collaboration, productivity and the nature of work. He’s the co-founder of 37signals, makers of Basecamp and other web-based collaboration tools, and co-author of “Rework.”
Businesses, governments and other organisations invest so much money in bringing their people together at the office, but when people really want to get something done at work, they want to do it elsewhere. They tend to either do it at home, or on their commute (plane, train, car), or at strange times – early morning, late night, weekends. This is because most people in creative professions need uninterrupted time to work, and being at work chops up your day with meetings and other requests.
Jason sees a connection between work and sleep. Sleep happens in phases – to get to the deepest phase you need to go through the others first. If interrupted in an early phase you need to go through them all again. The interruptions in an office are not the same as at home – at home you can choose to turn on the TV or surf the internet or go for a walk. In the office the main interruptions are managers and meetings. Managers job is to interrupt – to check what you’re doing. They also tend to call meetings to resolve issues – taking 10 people out from their train of thought to talk about work (rather than actually working). For a 1hr meeting, this is 10hrs of lost productivity from the organisation. Meetings also have a habit of causing more meetings – scaling up the damage done.
So how can enlightened managers get their employees working at the office again?
- ‘No talk Thursdays’ – tell people not to talk to each other for 1 afternoon per month. It is amazing how much work will get done if employees can have 4hrs uninterrupted.
- Move away from face-to-face communication, and towards emails / messaging. This can still be time-consuming, but at least the recipient can choose when to deal with it. They can schedule around their core work and take it at their own pace.
- Cancel a meeting – if you have to make a decision at a meeting, just cancel it. The decision will still get made somehow, and you’ll free up everyone’s schedule.