Screw your work ethic. Can you sit in one spot for eight hours?

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I am learning, slowly but surely, that being a “great” employee has little to do with your talent, emotional intelligence or leadership skills. It has more to do with how often and how long you’re in the office.

What I’ve been told is that the number of hours you’re present in the office equates to your reliability as an employee. It tells your colleagues that you’re “showing up” for the job and others can depend on you to get your job done.

Well, to those who told me that: we’ll just have to agree to disagree because in my opinion, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Look, I understand the need to be in the office SOMETIMES, and I understand the need to be at important work meetings and events. But in a world where technology is at an all-time high and mental health is at an all-time low, work-life balance is a requirement if we’re going to keep the workforce moving forward. Sitting in the office all day does NOT automatically make you a dependable employee, and working from home doesn’t make you a slack-off either.

How many employees do you work with who never answer their emails, phone calls or even text messages when you need them? True story, I knew someone who was consistently late to meetings and NEVER at his desk (even though he’s “at the office”). It was always a hassle following up with him or getting projects completed by the deadline.

On the contrary, I’ve gotten in trouble for leaving early a few times from work. (This is after I’ve finished all my work, followed up with my managers for the THIRD time, and was literally sitting on my phone for the last two hours with nothing to do.) Despite my efforts to be “proactive” and ask for more work, I was left to sit in oblivion and stare at that harsh computer screen that I’m pretty sure is the culprit of all my bad headaches. One time, I left 30 minutes early because I was sick (which my boss already knew about), and I was treated like a subpar employee who was never good at her job.

Work-life balance is so important and needed in today’s society! Technology is affecting everyone’s anxiety at an enormous rate, and with all the updates in the last decade, we are now on a 24-hour news cycle. That alone warrants a mental health break.

When it comes to working from home or shortening the workweek, most management is petrified and completely unwilling to make a change. In 2017, only 2.8% of the U.S. workforce worked from home 50% of the time. I came across an article that summarized the reasons why management is so resistant to flexible scheduling. See the key points below:

  • They don’t trust you.
  • They’re stuck in an old way of thinking.
  • They don’t understand technology.
  • They don’t realize the cost savings.
  • People abuse the privilege.
  • They don’t have a growth mindset.
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While there are people who, of course, abuse this privilege (and any other privilege for that matter), the benefits FAR outweigh the drawbacks. Saving money and growing the company are just two of the advantages. Not to mention, it has been widely explained and proven that work-life balance is pertinent to overall productivity, improved health and happiness. We know this. But what are we going to do about it?

Mental Health America did a great job describing what you can do in the meantime to help you balance both your work and life stresses. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m going to keep bringing up this subject until Millennials rule the world in 2030.

Currently, I work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. This means that I get to work BEFORE everything opens, and I leave work AFTER everything closes. It’s nearly impossible to handle medical appointments and family emergencies without looking like a “bad”/absent employee. Not to mention, I’m flying through my PTO for little things that should be better accommodated during the workday.

I think the worst part is that I hardly have anything to do. Most of the time, I’m on my phone, watching videos or coloring in an activity book. I really think this has to do with the way Millennials work because it’s not just me. Every millennial cubicle I pass looks just like mine. Bored, young people chatting with their neighbors all day because they’ve already finished all their assignments. Millennials are said to be more productive than other generations and able to respond to dozens of stimuli at once. Since we grew up with technology, we understand concepts at a quicker rate and strategize at a higher rate. In other words, we work quicker and more efficiently.

All this to say, working at the office is not a guarantee that you’ll be a better employee. However, I understand that working from home doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a better employee either. If I were in charge right now, I’ve give my employees six months to prove to me that they can be trusted with telecommuting. This won’t exclude them from important on-site meetings or important company events. In fact, I probably would make it where my employees work from home half the time, as well. That way, this satisfies both the employees who are yearning for more flexible schedules and the employees who thrive in traditional work environments.

What are your thoughts on work-life balance, flexible schedules, work from home and any of the other numerous work styles that are floating around out there? Some say work-life balance is a myth. What do you say?

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