Work-play balance a dual responsibility

We begin a three-part series of profiles of IT professionals who are deciding to make sure work does not take over their lives and that some part of their day, month or year is reserved for fun stuff that has nothing to do with the daily grind back at the office.

In our first profile, a CIO talks about how music and motorcycling help take his mind away from his executive tasks and allow him to come back to work and attack his job with vigor and excitement. Whether it is playing an instrument, building model railroads, playing a sport — whatever the hobby may be — IT workers are increasingly beginning to realize just how important it is to have an appropriate balance of life and work.

While pressures to do more work with less time is a fact of life for professionals in all industries, techies seem to be especially challenged. Not only are they working in a sector that is characterized by continuous uptime and an “always-on” mentality — with the resulting job responsibilities that often impinge on personal and family time — they also are working closely with the very cutting-edge tools that have helped transform the workplace from its traditional brick-and-mortar setup into one that is becoming increasingly mobile.

Mobile phones, personal digital assistants, laptops and host of other gadgets allow and, more often than not, force IT professionals to always be on call.

It is the belief of many that this trend has resulted in an imbalance in many workers’ lives between work time and play time. This has led to scores of stressed-out employees who end up too frazzled to do any task, at home or at the office, to their best of their ability.

At the end of the day, whose responsibility is it to ensure this scenario is not played out? The answer is: both employer and employee. Both sides have an interest in ensuring the worker is in tip-top mental shape, for obvious reasons.

Employees must ask themselves, ‘If salvaging a happy life isn’t worth raising the topic of my burdensome workload with my boss, what is?’ Employers in turn must realize that an employee with too much work on his or her brain is ultimately, productivity-wise, going to offer nothing but diminishing returns to the firm.

Some companies get that message and offer a host of incentives to their employees to enjoy their lives outside the office. Likewise, some employees ensure they make time for non-work activities.

It’s no coincidence that both groups can usually be found having the most success.

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