In a very metaphorical, entertaining post, Stephanie West Allen at idealawg talks about whether you can ever have more than one level of work life balance at a law firm. She writes of reading of worms that live in water so scorching that it would kill other worms:
What would happen if some of the cooler worms (those in the luke-worm, cool-worm, and berg-worm ponds) decided that since hot water is fatal to them it is therefore bad for all worms? Reminds me of some of the arguments and declarations we hear about work-life balance.
I have met many hot worm lawyers and I suspect there may be whole firms composed primarily of hot worms. These lawyers thrive on conditions that might prove injurious or even fatal to other lawyers. I am concerned for the hot worm lawyers and the damage that might be done to them if someone decided that these torrid wigglers needed to swim in cooler waters, to achieve life balance as defined by some other worm. In many cases, a cool, balanced worm may be an unhappy or dead worm.
I talked about this issue before in response to a previous David Maister post. It seems incredibly wasteful for law firms, and by extension, all workplaces (I don’t think law firms are as special as they always make out) to only be able to accommodate one flavour of work life balance. And yet, I’ve never worked in a workplace that has successfully done so. Sometimes it works in different departments, where each side looks upon the other in contempt, but if you’ve got people working too closely together with different willingness to work long hours, then friction does seem to be inevitable.
But the question is whether the friction is worth it, just to get access to a wider group of people. I find it hard to recruit good people these days. While I find my workplace fascinating, I’m not at the glamour cutting edge of the actuarial profession, so I have to find good people any where I can. So I don’t think I can afford to be choosy and only get people with one flavour of work life balance. And, of course, I’m trying to work fewer hours, so my bias is in one direction at the moment.
I’ll keep thinking about it, and try not to kill any more worms in the process!
(Hat tip – David Maister’s Blawg Review)