life work balancing act
12 June 2014
In an industry where dedication to extended working hours is considered a badge of honour some enlightened design practices are refusing to accept late nights and workends as a necessity. But how does a life/work balance in construction stack up in reality?
As a dedicated and hard working employee I have been known to work double my contracted hours and always absorbed myself in my job. With this background I was intrigued by fabrik’s purported life/work balance when joining the practice. A set 8 hours per day plus 1 hour lunch break were to be applied and I was assured I would soon get used to it.
Two weeks into the new job I met a former colleague over coffee. Their concern was immediate – ‘Was I OK? I looked like a rabbit in the headlights’.
Despite an efficient knuckle-down attitude, I have to admit I was not prepared for such an intense working day. With a full-on schedule, perfectionist tendencies and no wiggle room to commit extra time there wasn’t a safety value and pressure was mounting.
I also felt like a shift worker, clocking on and off, rather than a trusted and experienced professional. I was unaccustomed to such rigidity and somewhat taken aback when told my laptop would be removed if I continued to send emails outside my contracted hours. New tactics were required, but would they be sufficient?
Over two years later I ‘broadly’ accept this way of working. It has been stressful when fixed deadlines crowd in and time-pressure mounts. The working day is concentrated and demanding; but the evenings and weekends are mine and I sleep better these days. I’ve used the extra personal time to take on voluntary roles and dance classes again, it has released pressure on family-life and the veg-patch is looking pretty good.
But does it work for business?
Deadlines will always be tight and a ‘to do’ list always awaits. Whether you have extended or constrained working hours, there are never enough hours in the day.
A focused, priority-driven, procrastination-free approach results from set working hours. At times I’ve resented their imposition, but acknowledge that inevitably if one works late, all work late. A defensible line has been drawn by the Directorship to ensure all staff enjoy the advantages to their personal health, social and family life, and wider professional interests. If deadlines absolutely demand out of hours work, time in-lieu or overtime payment is anticipated.
So a different approach can work. I do have one issue though, something I hold MD Johnny Rath entirely responsible for -
Set working hours have been a major blow to gender equality in our household as I now have more time available for childcare, cooking, washing...!
written by Naomi Burl