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Working Less Doesn’t Provide Work-Life Balance. Sabbaticals Do.

ikea_less_kThe sabbatical trend keeps growing. We know that because at yourSABBATICAL our list of organizations offering sabbaticals (see Companies on a Quest) keeps growing.

But if you don’t work for one of those companies, you may be on your own with the work-life balance problem. Perhaps you can make it happen by participating every year in  Take Back Your Time Day (this year it’s October 24th) and pledge the amount of time you intend to take back for the coming year. The argument is made that the solution to our work-life balance is toward working fewer hours and taking more free time.

I’d tell you to use the concept and pledge early, since it’s only March.  But I think you’d be wasting more time. There’s not much success with this movement.

Working less doesn’t seem like something we are going to do. Americans work more than the citizens of any other industrialized country. Our work days are longer, our vacations are disappearing, and we are caught up in patterns of life that force us to pay an enormous price in terms of our health, our families and communities.

Countries like Norway, the Netherlands, France and Germany have shown that shorter work time and a balanced life is possible and that it can actually be good for business. In fact, most of them are more productive per worker hour than we are! But really, we don’t care about what they do across the pond; we like to work.

Two companies – Ikea and the winemaker Beringer– were so worried about your work-life balance that  both of them created add campaigns to get your attention and to get you to stop working – and to start drinking, while cooking in a new Ikea kitchen.  Ikea’s effort (lifeoutsidework.co.uk) asks an important question to some, I’m sure:  “Are you working too hard for your dream kitchen?”  Beringer’s Living5to9.com included  a “time to go home alarm.”

Ads like these don’t solve our work life balance and a big fat “shove it” to Beringer for that stupid clock idea.

Here’s a clever idea – try a different approach to the problem. Sabbaticals address work-life balance in a different way, and they work.  Why?

1.  It’s a real “break” from your job.

2.  You have a sabbatical plan with goals – personal and/or professional.

3.  You don’t have to change your overall behavior; when you return, you can start right back working like a dog. Difference is — you’ll feel like a new dog.

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