The Importance of Work-Life Balance

June 6th, 2017

work life balance

By Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder

One of the things I love most about working in the technology industry is that many, if not most, of the practices deployed are based on science. Working from a place of evidence-based practice makes choices much easier in many instances than going from your gut.

It’s coming from this perspective that it is so interesting to understand why high-tech companies use nap pods and meditation rooms. While some companies use these practices because they value their employees and just want to make them happy, most companies know that tired and stressed people do not do their best work. Optimizing humans requires a certain degree of care, and sleep is certainly required. The founders of these companies know that a 20 minute nap in a comfortable silence place yields a much better result than someone nodding off at their desk.

This Wired story gets into the debate about work-life balance in the valley and at tech companies. For sure, an interesting debate but one that seems to have forgotten some of the lessons that we learned along the way through data driven experimentation and learning. As with all such data, there can be outliers/exceptions that seem to disprove the rule, but ultimately, the sage and sane person follows the data which on this topic states that working much more than 50 hours per week does not meaningfully increase productivity. When pushed beyond that, people burn out and productivity and culture suffer. Ironically, these hours are still a badge of honor in many industries. Medicine actually was so bad at self-regulation about this, the legislative bodies had to regulate it through laws. The same is true for long-haul trucking.

At my company, we recently created a set of core values, one of which is work-life balance. We are each only on this planet for a relatively short period of time, and to my knowledge, there is no law of the universe that states that work is the only meaningful thing that should be completed during that time. In fact, as a husband, parent and serial philanthropist, I can tell you I derive at least as much joy from those areas of my life along with some hobbies as I do from work. And I actually love my work.

It would also be remiss in this conversation to not acknowledge that in the next decade or so, we are going to need to re-imagine our lives for a post-employment civilization. As we continue to improve automation and artificial intelligence, we will increasingly no longer have employment in the way that we have in the past. What will life look like for a workaholic when they don’t need to work anymore?

That future is not far away. Perhaps some of the people advocating a relentless work cycle might want to take some of those hours and put them into imagining the future without work and trying to solve for:

  1. How we keep people out of poverty.
  2. What people do with their time, talent and energy when they no longer have jobs.

Putting in the hours to make a billion dollars is wonderful, but if our society doesn’t answer those two questions, you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor because people who are starving and have starving children will have no qualms about taking what you have to keep themselves alive.

Fortunately, most of those who have entered the billionaire club from technology companies understand this and are working towards solutions. Now we need everyone else to get in and join them.

If you like this article, you might enjoy reading The First Ever Portable Benefits Act for Freelancers