It all began so innocently.
Through a friend, I found a job at a small, young, high-tech company. It was a perfect fit for work-life balance—work from home and flexible hours. This job was completely in English, which was a major plus for one who chose to move overseas and, 10 years later, still struggles with a new language! As a bonus, there was a growing human resources component to the job, tapping into my original career choice years ago before I stepped off the corporate ladder to be home with my kids.
Although I knew my friend loved his job and worked a lot, I figured my family commitments would keep me from falling into that trap. This was just a job, after all, not a return to a full-fledged career. So I threw myself into it, working through the steep technical learning curve. We used many systems, and working in a completely remote, multiple-time-zone environment had additional challenges. Once I settled in and became functional, I realized the amazing amount of potential for me to make an impact in the organization.
###Prove it! A part of me felt I had a lot to prove—yes, to the company, but even more so to myself and my daughters who hadn’t really ever seen this side of me. Each new process I learned, each pleasant interaction with a customer I had, each improvement I made gave me a jolt of pride and spurred me on to do more. There were continual changes in the organization and in our processes, and the work was endless. I changed from someone who avoided change to someone who thrived on it.
Even with all that, I wasn’t a glutton. I stuck to my exercise schedule, I met friends for coffee, I continued to volunteer, and the house was still standing. I was mindful of the other aspects of my life, and yet, as each month went by, I drifted down to my office each night to do just a bit more. "If I don’t," I’d tell myself, "I’ll just be overwhelmed tomorrow." And because our remote workforce is all over the world, the work never stopped coming in.
###The slippery slope My family began to tease me. Then they started to complain about my lack of availability and little things falling through the cracks. I thought they just weren’t used to me working full time. My kids weren't little anymore and could certainly help out more around the house, and my husband could take on more of the household chores as well. They all did rise to the occasion to an extent, but I began to wonder when doing something you love becomes too much. Where is the line between feeling good about the work you do and feeling badly about what you're not doing?
I decided to sit down and add up the number of hours I was working each week. I was surprised when the total easily added up to 60 hours a week. Seeing that number made me recognize that the scales had shifted too far. Although our staff members may know the company policy encourages a reasonable work week with lots of flexibility, they'll still look at what people are actually doing in order to interpret what is really expected. I felt like it was my responsibility to show others that the way I've been working shouldn’t be the expected norm.
###But I'm having fun! The thing is, I’m still having fun. And I don't feel any effects of burnout. Still, I'm committed to cutting back. After all, I don't really know what will happen if I don't pace myself, and I'm in this for the long haul. I wonder, though...if I approach this experiment as part of my responsibility to the company, does that count as work? Hmmm…
I'm interested in hearing from you! Do you have any suggestions of things that have worked for you to scale back when working in a job you love? If so, hit me up over Twitter @KarenFruchtman.
About the author: Karen Fruchtman oversees all activities that allow the staff at Particular Software to shine. Karen is energized by the opportunity to help craft a company culture that attracts and retains such a stellar group of people. Blogging is a new venture for her, and just one example of how the team in Particular explores new ways of enhancing their careers. If you’re interested in learning more about us, check out our Careers Page.