Sunday, December 30, 2012

Continuing to Struggle with Work-Life Balance in 2012

While reflecting on 2012, I reviewed my post What Worked in 2011: Learning to Slow Down and Take Care of Myself and was surprised by my final paragraph:

I want to continue discovering who I am. Hey I turn 50 this year it is about time. I had another bad week at work then was strongly encouraged to go in on Saturday (its year-end). While sitting in my office feeling miserable, I decided it is time I get serious about figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life.
I had a similar experience this year. I am losing three vacation days I never got around to using, my boss expected me to work yesterday (Saturday), and told me I would work on Christmas Eve day (a company holiday) if he told me to do so. My co-worker who overheard this conversation thought my boss had been joking, but it left me feeling disgruntled and guilty for not working more. When I stumbled upon my post from last year I realized nothing has changed in a year and my work-life balance may actually be a little worse.

Here are a few of the work struggles I faced this year:

Making a "Big Mistake" at Work

SWG Coffee Social: Job Disillusionment

How not to Lose Your Cool While Your Manager Screams at You

I'm 50 Years Old and Still Can't Think on My Feet

I did have a couple of positive experiences:

How to Be More Confident at Work

Want to Motivate Your Employees? Appreciate them

And I attempted to make improvements:

Joining Classy Career Girl's Networking Challenge

"Be Strong!" Challenge

Why I am Cleaning My Desk

Be Strong Challenge: September Update

Unfortunately all of my challenges ended in failure:

Networking Challenge:
I gave up on the Networking Challenge after I was stood up for an interview and received a couple of rejections.  I am bringing this one back in 2013 with a new focus. 
Push-up challenge:
I have tendinitis in my elbow and had to stop doing push-ups.  I am now experiencing so much pain I can barely lift a coffee pot.  It is disappointing to accept the fact I will never have a strong upper body, but after hurting myself for the 4th time I think I have finally learnt my lesson.  For 2013 I will listen to my body and stick with exercise routines my body can handle - Zumba and Turbo Kick.

Cleaning my desk:
Fail.  I had a clean desk until I went on vacation in October. I came back to a mess and it has remained that way ever since.  I have started a new routine - going in early which has helped.  It is nice to be in before others are there to bother me and I am not nearly as tired as when I work late.

Stopping the snacking:
This is a fail.  Once I am tired and under stress I lose all self-control and have actually gained five pounds since I went on vacation in October.  All I can do is start eating better again in January.

In 2012 I did say no more often, but the things I said no to - spending time with friends, going to the gym and volunteering - are all things I enjoy and help contribute to my work-life balance.

What should I do?
Working too many hours has been my company's culture for over 50 years.  My predecessor who retired after 35 years used to work both Saturdays and Sundays.  She was widowed at a young age and needed to support her family of five. (She was also incredibly underpaid.)  My boss has always worked too many hours and never uses all of his vacation time, so he expects his employees to do the same. 

I was "networking" with a colleague who started her own business ten years ago.  She feels her biggest career mistake was staying at a company too long.  Once you earn a reputation with a company it is almost impossible to break out of it without leaving and starting over somewhere else.  She earned the reputation (single with no children) as the employee who was available to travel and spent the majority of her time on the road.  By starting her business she can now set her own schedule and choose the clients she wants to work for.  She wishes she would have had the courage to start her business two years earlier than she did.  She suggests I start over at a new company that has a culture more in tuned to work-life balance.

I am still not too keen on continuing to work in accounting, but for the time being it does pay the bills.  I do know I will be bringing back my "Be Strong!" Challenge in 2013 with a vengeance. Other than that I am pretty sure I will still be working too many hours at my current company next year at this time.

How do you maintain a work-life balance? Do you have any suggestions for me?

If you like this post you may also like:
Accountants are required to work 45+ hours per week
How does your pay stack up against the salary guides?
My career as a tax accountant


  1. Anonymous4:25 PM

    In 2011 I had been at my job almost eleven years. I had cried every day of that job. I came up with a plan, payed off my student loans, and walked away from my job. Without another one and with a family. I now have a job I love (it only took a few monyhs to get another one) and it was so worth it.

  2. I do not have Carly's courage, so have never left a job without one in hand. That said, maybe it is time for. you to seriously look for one. Your boss's demands are excessive and unfair. I know tax season is starting Wednesday, but. .. maybe "savvy Season" should start then, too.

    Good luck, and a big hug.

  3. Ugh! This sounds very frustrating. I think I have been lucky to have two flexible employers so far. Mu current job at a newspaper can have weird hours -- evening meetings and some weekends -- but for the most part my boss is understanding about taking a few hours off to make up for it. That is something I know I should stop taking for granted.

  4. Work-Life balance is something that I definitely struggle with all the time. In 2011, I left my job because the balance was way skewed and I was working way too much. I now freelance consult which is great but definitely has its trade-offs but for me, the flexibility in schedule has been key.

    I agree that it might be time to consider looking around. I agree that staying too long and getting a "reputation" for something is hard to break out of and change. Personally, I do think that your boss' demands on your time are unreasonable.

    Also, don't be too hard on yourself with regard to the challenges. Honestly, part of the reason that I don't like challenges is because they might not the best fit for everyone. I love that they help create a sense of accountability and all but you shouldn't feel like a failure because you couldn't complete it. Life happens. Things happen. I hope that your elbow is feeling better.

  5. I am very lucky that my manager is quite understanding about work-life balance. She has told me that it is her job to stay late and work weekends to make sure that the work gets done and not necessarily the rest of the department. We leave when we have to leave and work from home if we are unable to finish our work at the office. That being said, the department as a whole works hard, barely stopping for lunch or a social break. I am not the only one to arrive at work early and stay later if necessary. Her generosity creates a sense of camraderie that is very rare I've found.

    That being said, honey, you need to find another job or else start saying no on the job. This is your life and your free time, and you do not want to look back and wish you had not spent so much time at work. It is not easy and it is tremendously scary, but the jobs are out there. 2013 is YOUR year, Savvy. Take it back from your boss and make it your best year yet!

  6. Hi there - I've been subscribing to your blog without realizing you're in accounting. I have to put my 2 cents in here as a fellow accountant. This field is extremely difficult to maintain a work-life balance. The WOMEN in this field make it this way, I feel. They are competitive and don't understand other women that just want to have a career in accounting without striving to be Partner or CFO. I was in public for 10 long years and had 2 babies in that time. Busy season is relentless and it's gotten to the point where the hours continued outside of busy season too. I'm rooting for you - it's hard to make a change, but it's important to keep your sanity!

  7. Hi there,

    I read the bit about tendinitis and had to sympathetically wince. I had a herniated disc in my back that made it impossible for me to turn my head more than ten degrees to the left. After a year with a chiropractor, I'm now fine with only an occasional twinge. A chiropractor might be able to help you as well.

  8. It is so difficult to maintain a work life balance. When you have a job that demands a lot of your time and energy I think it is even more challenging. I hope this new year brings a new opportunity your way, and that you have more time to devote to the things that you want to do.

  9. Wow, I can't believe your boss felt that he could expect you to work on a company holiday. Ouch. Stopping by from SITS Sharefest and really hoping for your sake that 2013 brings more balance. :)

  10. Carli Alice,
    Crying every night - that is miserable. I'm not to that point. I am happy things worked out so well for you.

  11. Webb,
    "Savvy season" I like the sound of that. I haven't looked for a new job, since the beginning of the Great Recession. I got discouraged over so much rejection. Submitting a few resumes can't hurt.

  12. Kim,
    Continue to take advantage of the flexibility as long as your employers allow it. I think if my job was more flexible I would burn out less often. That is the problem I have with my profession. There are deadlines when I can't be flexible. Tax returns need to be submitted on time and employees have to be paid on payday. Telling me I need to work on a Holiday was over the top though.

  13. Christine,
    I would like to hear more about the trade-offs of working freelance. If I were ever to do something like that it wouldn't be in accounting. Doing several companies books on my own would only increase my stress level and flexibility problem.

    I will stop beating myself up about the challenges. My elbow is better - I took it easy for the past two weeks.

  14. Michelle,
    What fabulous advice. I am going to take you up on it. Happy to hear you job is going well and that you finally have an understanding boss.

  15. Jennifer,
    Anyone who has worked in accounting understand the time demands. I also think the financial problems companies faced the past few years has not helped. Many nights I've come home completely drained. There are accounting firms that do promote work/life balance, but they are still too hard to come by. So many of the women in my professional organization work tons of hours. I've also written a couple of times about one of my friends who was passed over for a promotion twice because she doesn't put in enough face time.

  16. Maria,
    Happy to hear a chiropractor was able to give you seem relief. I hadn't thought of that. I will keep it in mind for the future. It is actually feeling better.

  17. Kim@copilot Mom,
    I hope so too.

  18. Dose of Reality:
    He was responding from his own stress. He too can't say no.