Kelvinwright's Blog

postmodern thoughts

Make a life!

never get so busy making a living Last night, as I went into Madrid to meet up with a friend for dinner, I passed one of the many new, glass and steel buildings that have sprung up around the old city centre. It was 9.20pm, and most of the lights were on. It was 9.20pm on a Friday night, and workers were at their desks or in meetings – I saw several meetings taking place.

This morning, I began looking in more detail at the labour hours country by country, curious to see if there is actually anywhere that has a work-life balance, the theme of this month. I came across many articles, regarding growth, competitiveness and number of hours worked. One report by Spanish bank BBVA (1), studied the hours worked each year throughout the EU and developed world.

South Korea: 2100 hours

USA: 1800 hours

Japan: 1790 hours

Spain: 1780 hours

UK: 1630 hours

Sweden: 1600 hours

Italy: 1560 hours

France: 1540 hours

Germany: 1410 hours

Holland: 1390 hours

Spanish workers are at the workplace an average of 370 hours more per year than their German counterparts. Based on a 40-hour week, this means that in the same 52-week year that we all have, Spaniards manage to cram in another 9 weeks per year! Whatever happened t the Leisure Age? I’ve seen colleagues in various companies preparing reports or client bids on the weekends, sending emails at midnight, organising meetings at 7.00pm. Yet they all say the same things: “We’d rather be at home, but there’s work to do.” I would throw a few questions at them: “In a year, will anybody remember that report?” “Is what you are doing now so important, that it’s more critical than seeing your partner? Or seeing your children grow-up?”

Productivity does not depend on being at work more hours, although in times of crisis, it is often difficult to look past bottom line results.  There’s a famous matrix split that has on one axis, important tasks, and on the other axis, urgent tasks. We should first make sure we complete those tasks that are (genuinely) in the important/urgent quadrant. Then those that are in the important, followed by the urgent, and lastly don’t even bother worrying about those that are neither important nor urgent. Often, we get hung up on those that colleagues scream are urgent: “That report has to be here before you leave this evening.”

HR departments need to take on more strategic roles in the shaping of companies, to look for other measures of success beyond the pure bottom line, results-now mindset, and they need to make an effort role in promoting the benefits of the work-life balance and of a healthy workforce. And each of us can start applying the urgent/important methodology to make sure that by 6pm, we’re no longer at the office. We need to make sure that love what we do, both at work, and out of it.

(1) BBVA report –


* Image from:


September 28, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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