Lucy Kellaway, "Married To The Office"
Choosing between the joys of work and the hell of home isn't difficult.
Which is harder: being at work or being at home?
Everyone knows the answer to this one. Work is the hard bit. Home is easy. Work is stressful, difficult and we spend far too much of our lives doing it. Home is the pleasant antidote and we do not spend nearly enough time there.
This is the belief that lies behind a fashionable new issue that has become known as the Work/Life balance. In the US and Europe, companies — and even some governments — are fretting about this. Task forces and think tanks have been set up to solve the problem: how can we strike a better balance between our work and the rest of our lives. They argue that it is bad that we are forced to work so hard. We need to take it easier. We need to be at home more.
It all sounds reasonable enough. Only — in my experience at least — it happens not to fit the evidence. Think of your own life (especially if you have children); think about what you do at home. Is it restful, enjoyable, sweetly fulfilling? And now think of your work. Is it difficult, stressful, harrowing, ultimately unsatisfying?
Speaking personally, I would have to answer no on all counts.
For me at least, work is wonderful. For a start I am surrounded by adults. There is a lot to be said for adults. They tend not to throw temper tantrums. They tend to be fairly reasonable. Or if they are unreasonable, they are unreasonable in a reasonable kind of way. Even the workplace tyrants have a veneer of politeness that I am thankful for.
Think of the most aggravating parts of work life. Those long tedious meetings. At least in the course of them you are not likely to be told to shut up and no one will stick their tongue out at you. On the whole, adults do not roll their eyes rudely every time you open your mouth.
Sure, work can be stressful. Office politics can be poisonous, and people who drive themselves too hard can make themselves ill with stress.
But I do not believe this is the norm. For most people — especially for most mothers — by far the most stressful thing in their lives is home. When you return to your domestic heart after a day in the office you are instantly transformed into an unpaid, unrecognized, stressed-out drudge. Cooking. Washing up. Worrying about the leaking in the roof. Remembering to find a babysitter for a play that you do not want to go see the following night. Remembering to pay the gas bill. Nagging over piano practice, homework, television watching. Squabbling with your spouse.
So why do people work such long hours? It is popularly supposed to be the result of an evil culture that advocates long hours and the myth that if you are not at your desk when your boss clocks off for the night, then you have no chance of making the next promotion. But I suspect there is another reason too. In the US at least, there is some evidence that one reason people stay at work so long, and one reason why they are prepared to travel so much is that it beats being at home.
Списано из забытого номера "Financial Times" летом