Agency Life: The Hours You Keep

By | April 16, 2012
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Tempus FugitFacebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s recent revelation that she leaves work at 5:30 p.m. each day has struck a chord with many in our field on work/life balance, as well as prompted an active discussion on the Marketing Agency Insider LinkedIn group.

With many of us right in the thick of these challenges, and never truly feeling off-the-clock, we felt it was time to open the discussion.  

I seek to understand the actual hours people within agencies and related fields spend on their job tasks, businesses and home life, as opposed to the perceptions we may have about each other in these changing times.

What are the true hours you keep? What do you keep sacred?

As household roles continue to blur for working parents, so do the lines of work and home. Last November, I explored the challenges of balancing agency life with major life changes, and how to maintain focus on goals.

In theory, as opposed to some other careers, agency work should lend itself to flexibility and freedom of schedules. But the reality of client demands, and agency growth and management, in addition to the 24/7 news and social media cycle, makes this much easier said than done.

Just because the technologies exist for men and women to lead more mobile careers, doesn't mean every business is comfortable with this move, and it's not necessarily the cure-all for better balance.

Roles, Startups, Gen-Y: The Conversation is Just Beginning

I can only speak from the female perspective, but know we are all aware of the personal costs of building businesses and careers.

I am compelled to share Penelope Trunk’s take on What Facebook’s IPO means for women, which illustrates the reality that few women would actually want Sandberg’s life. The post also highlights Jeff Atwood, the co-founder of Stack Exchange and Stack Overflow, who announced in February his plans to step down from daily operations.

The TechCrunch article featured snippets from Atwood’s personal post, including the following:

 “Startup life is hard on families. We just welcomed two new members into our family, and running as fast as you can isn’t sustainible (sic) for parents of multiple small children. The death of Steve Jobs, and his subsequent posthumous biography, highlighted the risks for a lot of folks….Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange have been wildly successful, but I finally realized that success at the cost of my children is not success. It is failure.”

While I certainly look up to Sandberg’s drive, ambition and prominence, I don’t believe these are typical aspirations for women in Gen-Y, who generally value personal time and family. I don’t need a market research study to tell me this. I know this because I’m connected to a wide network of career-driven women, who will question everything they’ve worked toward in the name of their kids.

What do You Keep For Yourself?

I am employed full-time, with the opportunity to log eight hours in office per day, and at least one more from home each night. Depending on your perspective, this could be more or less flexible than others in my position, but it’s always critical that I make each moment count.

The hours I keep for myself, is the time between when my son falls asleep at night and when I can’t stay awake any longer. An ironic element to this is that I usually spend this free time either catching up on social networks, or more likely, on my personal writing.

I know I am less inclined to spend large amounts of time in exercise or hobbies as I did before, or engage in any weeknight or weekend activities that my son can’t take part in, having been away the full week. With how quickly childhood passes, I figure I’ll find a way to get back to myself in the future.

Work/life balance is always a work-in-progress, because we never know what challenges are ahead.

I am very interested to learn about tips and techniques that you’ve found to manage time, your family and personal life, while continuing to nurture your health, talents and spirit along the way.