You are reading Life-Work Balance, a series aimed at redirecting our total devotion to work towards prioritizing our personal lives.
Imagine your boss texting you at 8 p.m. asking you to send him a quick email, or check or create something. And then they get fined for it. This is currently happening in Portugal, thanks to a new policy in which bosses face penalties if they contact employees outside office hours.
In the UK, we are seeing the launch of the first 4-day working week campaign, with 30 companies signing up. Monzo Bank now offers three-month paid sabbaticals to its employees who have been there for more than four years. Twitter employees can now work from home forever.
These countries and organizations are realizing one thing (although there is still a long way to go): work cannot be our most important goal, it must be a complementary part of our lives, along with our happiness and well-being. – to be in the foreground. But while some are taking the small step toward a better work-life balance, others are struggling.
And where there is a gap in how you approach work, relationships can sometimes fall apart.
While Kim*, 29, from London, observes healthy working practices as a fashion merchandising consultant, her former lawyer partner was rarely able to disconnect.
And, she says, his devotion to work turned him away from her: “We were doing long distance, and when he got a new job, our relationship hardened because we weren’t talking and slowly I l I called less because I knew he was busy and didn’t want to overwhelm him. When we talked he always seemed stressed and distracted. So I felt our relationship was slowly weakening.
Lawyers are notoriously overworked and it is not uncommon for some lawyers to work 80 hours a week. But this kind of devotion comes at a price. For Kim, that meant her relationship.
“He warned me about how he would have to work late and weekends with this new role (and it really rocked at night when it started) but I was hoping that when the lockdown was lifted it would become easier if we could see each other face to face. face.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and Kim found that her own stress was taking second place in her ex’s life.
“I started to feel like another thing on his agenda, rather than a chance to engage with someone I love. In the end, we no longer felt like the relationship made one of us happy, his schedule being so busy that we broke up.
After their breakup, Kim learned that her ex had suffered from depression and returned to therapy because of the stress.
Separation due to conflicting work schedules and ethics is a story as old as time, but as a new anti-work mentality emerges, many of us are breaking free from the shackles of capitalism, or at least attempt to do so, and insert limits where there were limits before. nothing.
The pandemic has left many of us with time spent commuting, socializing regularly and hanging out after work, giving us the opportunity to recalibrate and rest, while prioritizing our hobbies. time and, therefore, to our mental health.
Recent years have given rise to anti-capitalist movements. The “anti-work” subreddit, for example, now has 1.7 million users, with the biggest increase occurring in the pandemic.
Launched in 2013, this page strives to make work work for you. Although the slogan is “unemployment for all, not just the rich”, it should not be taken literally. The idea is not just about mass retirement from the labor market (although it has inspired many resignations), the page is about empowering workers and reducing the coercive and exploitative element of work.
It’s not just online that anti-capitalist expression is taking hold, we’re also seeing the tide turn against labor in our literature and popular discourse.
Texts such as Work Won’t Love You Back, Lost In Work: Escape Capitalism, and Laziness Is A Myth have taken flight, highlighting how capitalism dominates much of our thinking and attitudes about work.
But just because many of us participate in these conversations doesn’t mean all of our loved ones are too. The anti-work movement, or at least the challenge to the powers that be, does not come so easily to everyone. And that causes a relationship breakdown.
Miriam*, a 27-year-old writer from London, says that while she believes in dismantling capitalism – starting with cutting off her total devotion to work – her boyfriend, who works in IT, thinks otherwise.
“He listens to his work. Never say no, always be available. His salary is quite low and his hours are terrible,” she says. “He’s had a few breakdowns and his managers have even had breakdowns, it’s a toxic work environment.”
Miriam acknowledges her partner can’t just quit – ‘unless he’s able to support himself in some other way’ – but still wishes he would practice more self-prioritization by saying no to quarterbacks working late, advocating for better hours and unionizing to improve wages and working conditions.
“His unconditional dedication to work is having a negative impact on our relationship, leaving me on the edge,” she says.
“He still chooses to see himself as lucky to have a job in this economy. But agreeing to tough terms just means it works for everyone – bosses will continue to perpetuate those behaviors otherwise.
What Miriam is referring to is an attitude that is gaining ground: the job won’t love you back. Author Sarah Jaffe has a book by the same name, highlighting how, if we were to die, our jobs would be announced the following week. In other words, we are replaceable.
“The short answer is that the work isn’t all about you,” Jaffe told HuffPost. “And what that means in practice is that you can devote a ton of your time, energy, and emotional resources to work that ultimately sees you as a source of added value or a source of profit.”
Ultimately, your workplace exists to make money, not to make you happy, argues Jaffe. “As human beings we work because under capitalism we have to, in order to keep a roof over our heads, pay the bills and be able to do fun things in our free time.”
But, Jaffe points out, this is not a problem that we have just created as individuals and, above all – nor can we as individuals – expect to dismantle everything on our own.
“It’s a political problem. It’s not a personal problem where you make bad decisions and have bad boundaries,” she says. individualizes and personalizes everything as if it were our choice.And so, we must be Choose devote too much of ourselves to our work.
So that means there are unspoken rules around the work culture where the more available you are, the more visibly engaged you are in the role (and therefore deserving of praise and progression).
And of course, it affects our relationships. “If you see someone and you feel like you’re taking a back seat to their work all the time, it’s going to be frustrating, it’s going to be upsetting, especially if you’re trying to have a better relationship with your own work. “, says Jaffe.
“Our attitude to work is really messing up our relationship with each other and that’s no accident.”
Jaffe explains that without social solidarity, we feel alone and helpless, which allows us to continue to work and feed the capitalist regime.
So what can you do? After all, most people need to work. That answer lies in our collective demand, says Jaffe.
“If you, as an individual, are saying ‘I won’t be responding to emails from my boss on Friday night because I have an appointment’ or if you’re an Uber driver or an employee on a zero hour contract and that you just say ‘Friday night, I’m not going to activate the app, well, you’re taking money off the table.
“So it’s not as simple as saying, ‘have better personal boundaries.’ If you were in a union and you and your coworkers together stand up and say we’re not going to respond to emails after 8 p.m. on a work night or whatever those limitations are, then this class action can earn you better limits.
“And that’s part of why it’s important to disrupt not just our own dedication to work, but that of everyone around us, because it’s not going to work if we do it individually.”
*Names have been changed.
Work-life balance challenges the status quo of work culture, its mental and physical impacts, and radically reimagines how we can change it to make it work for us.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.