Sandy Says: Work/Life Unbalanced

Is the concept of a work/life balance only for the C-suite?

Has the divide between upper management and rank-and-file worker bees ever been this great? And does anything define it better than the concept of work/life balance?

I realized just how great this divide had become a few years ago when my company’s management announced in April that for that summer, we were adopting a 4-day work week and our pay would be cut by 10 percent for the rest of the year. The announcement was made by our then-CEO, who had just started and who was very well compensated.

When questioned about the decision by employees at a town hall meeting, she announced that we should “be grateful” and “welcome” the mandatory time off as a way to spend more time with our families. I doubt anyone perceived the situation as a benefit. Most perceived her as being insensitive at best and at worst, well, you can figure it out.

It was at that moment I thought: She really doesn’t get it.

She didn’t get the fact that the 10 percent pay cut was the difference between just squeaking by and suffering for many of her employees. She didn’t get the fact that we really weren’t getting “time off,” we simply were being told to do the exact same amount of work in less time for less money. Not to turn this into a “99 percent” vs. “1 percent” discussion, but her 90 percent of pay was so much more substantial than our 90 percent of pay that she never missed that 10 percent (if, in fact, her pay was cut at all).

So today, when I read that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg works a 9-5 day, I thought, “Bet she’s the only person working at Facebook who can say that.”

Sandberg said that it’s only been recently that she admits leaving the office in time to have dinner with her kids. Before she publicly acknowledged her commitment to a 9-5 day, she would send colleagues late night and early morning emails, so that they would assume she already was in the office at dawn or working late.

“I walk out of this office every day at 5:30 so I’m home for dinner with my kids at 6:00, and interestingly, I’ve been doing that since I had kids,” Sandberg said in a new video for Makers.com. ”I did that when I was at Google, I did that here, and I would say it’s not until the last year, two years that I’m brave enough to talk about it publicly.”

A recent survey found that between 30 and 40 percent of employees don’t think they have a good work/life balance. Most say that its because they feel they will get passed over for a promotion if they don’t show their dedication to the company by coming in early or staying late. Another 25 percent say they stay at work longer than they want to or need to because of peer pressure.

I wish that more managers and C-suiters emphasized the importance of work/life balance to their employees and admitted that they make an effort to leave work at a decent hour.

“I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late,” said Sandberg. “But now I think I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say, ‘Hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.’ And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally.”

But are Facebook employees listening?

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