Work-life balance is a big deal. Hundreds of corporate trainers offer workshops on it, thousands of books have been published on, and millions of people try to achieve every day. Everyone wants to be successful in business and still have a rewarding personal life.

Few seem to notice, though, that the concept of "work-life balance" foists the responsibility for creating that balance onto the employee, thus freeing employers to make demands upon employees without regard to the effect of those demands on employees' lives.

It wasn't always this way. Prior to 1980 or so, nobody talked about work-life balance because most people worked a 40-hour week. While working late wasn't uncommon, it was, if anything, a sign of dimwittedness to need extra hours to get your daily work done.

Today, by contrast, a salaried worker who insisted upon working only 40 hours a week would likely be considered lazy or just plain crazy. Though there's copious evidence that long hours make you less productive, 60-, 70-, 80-hour work weeks are commonplace.

Now, if you're self-employed or the CEO of your own company and want to work 100-hour weeks, that's your decision. It's a stupid decision, but you're in control of your time, so you can be as unbalanced or balanced as you want.

But that's not the case if you're an employee. If your management piles onto your plate more work than anyone could possibly accomplish in a 40-hour week, the suggestion that you need "work-life balance" is simply adding insult to injury.

That's especially true when the advice comes from people like Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington or Ivanka Trump, all of whom have personal assistants and servants to handle their time-consuming busywork.

To make matters worse, since the advent of smartphones, many companies demand and expect that employees be "on call" at all times. While most companies pretend that such extra work is voluntary, they subtly encourage it and certainly never discourage it. 

Look, I've read at least ten thousand corporate emails, many sent by readers of this column. NOT ONCE have I seen an email from a CEO or executive chewing out an underling for answering emails in the middle of the night.

Work-life balance is bald-faced lie because it masks the real problem--unpaid overtime--and thus prevents the real solution which is the re-establishment of the 40-hour work week and the abolition of unpaid overtime.

Published on: Nov 28, 2017
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