I don’t literally mean your wife but I do want to ask about your home life. Since reading the Howard Kennedy research into relationship breakdown and the workplace, I’ve been thinking about the impact work has on the private lives of high earners and how success can have such unfortunate consequences.
The research showed that 69% of high earners experienced relationship problems compared to 20% of the general population. That’s an awful lot of apparently successful people in difficulties at home. Besides the impact on the individuals involved, 71% reported that their domestic issues affected their work so we are seeing a circular problem where work causes marital tensions which themselves impact professional competence.
Even though respondents acknowledged the problems they were experiencing, fully 36% did nothing to resolve things, which means that both their families and their jobs would not be experiencing improvement any time soon. Stress, long working hours, physical absence …. none of these factors will be surprise contributors but of course that doesn’t make it any easier to mitigate the effects.
One of the reasons people start looking into the Pluralist lifestyle is because they want more time for themselves and their families. Years of working hard for other people can make the idea of being master of your own time and destiny very attractive but of course it isn’t always as straightforward as that. Having freedom to make your own decisions about how to spend your working hours also means needing to organise everything you do too. Keeping on top of the projects you take on can, in practice, take more time than ‘normal’ work.
Looking at some of the NED roles we post on the Pluralists’ members’ pages, the work can seem pretty minimal – ‘8 board meetings per annum’ - but of course it isn’t simply a matter of turning up for a few hours every now and then. Supporting or mentoring young companies might mean the odd informal chat with the founders but it can also mean being available at unpredictable times and possibly at length. Starting your own thing, as anyone who’s done it will soon tell you, can be a 23 hours per day struggle.
None of this means that developing a pluralist career is a mistake – far from it – but it is vital that you get your nearest and dearest on board and keep them there. Working long hours in an office and dealing with a bit of work stuff on holiday is one thing; running your working life from home and being available to a range of people 24/7 is quite another. If you don’t take those you love with you on the journey then there isn’t much point in taking the journey in the first place. If you’ve sacrificed your family in an attempt to improve your career, then you have to wonder what it was all for in the first place.
An effective work/life balance is about achieving personal fulfilment without ignoring the needs of everyone else. It’s about being financially comfortable without being bored or stressed. It’s about having an interesting, varied and fulfilled life in order to make yourself and those you love as happy as possible. If the balance shifts, then everyone loses.