work life balance 1 keysI just returned from a holiday that was meant to take me away from work completely. I am now benefiting from the effects of having re-charged my batteries after a very stressful and challenging fall season packed with activities. So it was with interest today that I read an article on the Guardian blog site that was looking at the concept of flexible working and “Why the arts sector doesn’t get it yet“.

In reading the article I found some touch points that fit with our culture here at TPM. In particular, we are trying to all follow a “do the job” regimen” as opposed to a “these are our working hours” regimen. What that means is that each staff member sets their own schedule while also keeping in mind their responsibilities to other staff members or those we work with. But the Guardian article goes a little further and asks “What would happen if we gave people completely free reign to deliver those tasks in a location and time of their choosing?” The premise is that if people work for two or three hours solid then they are very productive, but if they work for seven hours straight every day their productivity does not necessarily rise.

A similar tone was struck earlier in the week in a New York Times opinion piece by Erin Callan called: Is There Life After Work? In it she says “Since I resigned my position as chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers in 2008, amid mounting chaos and a cloud of public humiliation only months before the company went bankrupt, I have had ample time to reflect on the decisions I made in balancing (or failing to balance) my job with the rest of my life. The fact that I call it “the rest of my life” gives you an indication where work stood in the pecking order.

These and other thoughts are driving me to consider how I work and how we work at TPM. Are we following old patterns of work behaviour or are we open to considering new ways of approaching our work rhythms. When I reflect on this question I am heartened by the Guardian article’s use of the creative process as a model for how we might revision our work habits.

“Most artists have a cycle of working intensively and then relaxing – and I’d suggest most of us, artists or not, do excellent work for no more than two to four hours of their working day. So working consistently long hours as the leader of a cultural institution is counterproductive. A long-hours culture kills creativity, not only artistic creativity, but the creativity of thought needed to run an organisation or venue.

The arts have much to learn from the business sector, which has tackled this problem more directly, learning that a compromised workforce that lacks experience means lower economic returns. But in our sector, flexible work arrangements are currently associated with a lack of commitment.”

They seem to have nailed the challenge when they refer to flexible work habits being associated with a lack of commitment. I think we need to be a little easier on ourselves if we are to find the kind of work/life balance that will make us productive and also ensure that we have a life.

Are you struggling with these issues? What ideas do you have? What actions have you taken? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Andy McKim