I’ve been reading an article over on Mashable about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and how she leaves the office at 5.30pm every night, and has done since having children.
”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.”
She goes on:
“I was showing everyone I worked for that I worked just as hard. 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. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say, ‘Hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.’”
The emphases, by the way, are mine.
Now, I applaud Sheryl’s example. I think there are few visible role models of people who successfully rock the work life mix, and she’s putting herself out there as being one.
But what she said made me ponder a couple of things.
Is worklife balance really just for people who’ve made it?
Sheryl Sandberg is a successful woman by anyone’s standards.
And yet even she has had to get to a meteoric place in her career before it has been okay for her to come out about the fact that she’s managing her work around her life.
What does that say about those in less high-powered roles, or at earlier stages of their careers? Do different rules apply? Are they destined to put work before life until they’ve somehow earned the right to some kind of balance?
Is worklife balance really just for parents?
At the end of the video she says:
“And I hope that means other women and men – importantly, and men – feel comfortable going home to see their kids.”
So, worklife balance is just about children then, is it? What about the millions of single people in work who don’t have children to go home to?
How would it be for them to leave the office at 5.30 of an evening, and to have a life without having to defend it or justify it to anyone?
Who decides legitimacy?
And while we’re here, there’s a horrible habit of blaming employers for creating cultures from which there appears to be no escape. Like they make us sit there till 8pm each night.
Well maybe they do, and of course they have responsibility for creating the corporate cultures of their businesses.
But we’re part of those culture ourselves, and have a role in either fitting in and meeting the unwritten expectations.
Or in making things different for ourselves.
And it’s that bit that I think Sheryl has modelled very well. Irrespective of her level, or the fact that her main go-home driver is her children and her wish to be with them. What she has done is decide that both her life and her job are important to her, and she’s put down some boundaries for herself that allow her to achieve that.