During my 19 years career in IT industry the toughest puzzle has been work-life balance and I have seen different kinds of people across the world approaching it in different ways

1.    Fixed Timers

  • Works 40 hour a week. None more, none less. Vacation per quota
  • Comes on time and goes one time. Available during office hours only
  • Does their job on time & quality but not the top choice during crisis
  • Enjoy great personal life and remain happy with mediocre career growth

2.    High Timers

  • Works a lot always, often 60-80 hrs/week if not more.
  • Typically comes late but stays late. Works on most weekends.
  • Commit higher, struggles initially but finally manages to deliver
  • Bad personal life impacting health and attitude. Hardly takes vacations. Fast tracker during initial career but not necessarily in later years.

3.    Variable Timers

  • Varies the work timing based on the variable work
  • During crisis won’t mind staying late to finish the work but leaves early during lean period to spend that extra time with family.
  • Highly dependable people and best choice for most teams
  • Truly maintains a good work life balance and does equally well in office & personal fronts

4.    Time Cheaters

  • These are different types of time wasters we must avoid in our team
  • Some work inefficiently and pretend they are working more
  • Some spend time in doing other things in office and land up staying late
  • Some seek every opportunity to work less if they are not caught
  • When caught on bad quality or lack of progress, they blame others & find excuses

The question you may ask is which one is good for you. Honestly, it depends on what you are trying to get out of your job.

Someone with family constraints which requires him to spend more time at home may not consider career growth at his top priority. He may have alternate source of income. He can happily settle for “#1. Fixed Timers” Category.

For someone with need of fast career growth and large/regular salary increase but low constraints on family front can choose the “#2. High Timers” path. People who have large money needs (e.g. medical expenses, home loan) or someone trying to get established (e.g. impressing a girl & her family for marriage proposal J ) often join this group.

If you are in your mid-career and want to maintain a balance between home & office yet not ready to compromise on either fronts can settle for “#3. Variable Timers” category.

While I hate the category “#4. Time Cheaters” people but I have seen some intelligent folks playing this role in short term to achieve other goals in life – preparing for an exam (e.g. MBA) or job change or alternate profession.

The key thing to note is you do not need to play one category throughout your life. You can change yourself as the personal situation changes.

For me, I always tried to play the #3. Variable Timer role. However, due to my initial family situation and my workaholic nature, I landed up playing #2. High Timer all along (and paid the price in other fronts of life).

Regarding how much time one must spend in office, the subject line of the Post is something I have heard from a client several years back and believe the best of all choices. She was in executive rank and was highly successful in both office & home fronts.

She said following

Souvik, you get a salary to do 40 hours of work per week. You must come on time at 9 am and work efficiently to plan & finish it by 6 pm. Whatever you are doing during this time, you must try to do it in the best possible way.

You should plan so that you do not sign up for more work than what you can deliver. Also manage your priorities & timing to avoid work fluctuations as much as practically possible.

I nodded head as what she said is something everybody knows. She continued.

However, 9-6 work will only help you “earn” your salary. It will not be good enough to offer a sustained growth, especially in later part of your career.

If you really want a good growth, then you need to spend some more time for your career. I stay at office till 9 pm and from 6-9 pm, I study my domain, follow technical trends, write white papers and keep me posted on world events. I also relook at the work I did recently and explore if something can be done in a better way.

I strongly feel the career advance I got was not for the work I did from 9 am to 6 pm – it ‘qualified me’ for the promotion. But the actual promotion came for the things I did from 6 pm to 9 pm.

Before I could ask about the weekends, she wrapped up her advice with following

One thing you may realize that there is not much time left to be spent with family during weekdays. Hence it is crucial that weekends, holidays & vacations are not compromised unless we are in real crisis that called for extreme measures.

And when you are with family, don’t think work. They deserve your 100% attention

I found this to be a great advice many of us can follow. We do not need to do it every day in all weeks but the concept of committing for & delivering 40 hrs of work each week and then spending additional time for improving the work & skills will surely help us succeed.