September 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm #156489DavidParticipant
A coworker sent this article to me regarding work/life balance.
It is written from an architect’s POV, but i’m sure we can relate to this as LA’s. Despite that many of the discussions on this website seem to be centered around the state of the profession, unemployment and/or job prospects, i am curious what the thoughts are for those who are currently employed or were employed but left to support their families.
DavidSeptember 4, 2012 at 9:48 pm #156492Chris WhittedParticipant
Let me start with I am neither currently employed or left to support a family.
It’s a well-written blog post but personally I find nothing new there. His thoughts align much with my own, though our experiences have been a little different. I’m not sure anyone makes it through an LA program and into the job market without hearing about long hours for little pay. I made rules for myself that if I had family or a significant other or whatever, that would come first. So long as I didn’t, some over/extra time on an infrequent basis wouldn’t be a problem. Up until the crash, things mostly seemed to be going that way. Looking back I could say I did work too much overtime, but it was always compensated and rarely if ever actually required. On top of bonuses for stints of ‘extra effort’ I could also bank that time to be taken off later.
In my various job searches I’ve always avoided firms with a ‘standard’ 50+ hour work week. I know they’re out there and in large numbers. I also know there’s a lot of places with the same philosophy as the blog post – you get your work done and you go home; sometimes you have to put in a little extra for a deadline but it’s not a regular thing. But at the same time it is always a concern – how to stick to that principle without (say, during an interview) coming across as someone who isn’t willing to work or put in effort. Because as the blog author pointed out, while your work should stand on its own that’s often not the case.
What I actually found most interesting about the post was that the author’s solution was to start his own firm. While he does point out that most that go that route don’t succeed and he ‘got lucky’, he never really touches on how he was able to do so and still stick to a 40 hour week. Sure, he mentions that now he doesn’t go back to the office to work after hours except on rare instances, but what about starting out? In all the research I’ve done about starting my own firm or company (be it an LA firm or a photography business or anything else), one thing I consistently hear is that you have to put in a lot of hours. It’s one of the two primary reasons I have yet to attempt it myself – I have no desire to work regular 60+ hour weeks. There’s also the other half of that, in that you spend as much time or more running the business as actually doing the work. Perhaps I’m just misinformed or informed by people not doing it ‘right’? I’d like to hear from some people on here who do either run their own firm or sole practice about hours and balance.
There’s another aspect his post brings to mind, and that is what I’ll file under ‘professional passion’. I’m sure we’ve all known (or are) someone who eats sleeps breathes landscape architecture (design?). Even if not deadline related they take their work home with them or stay late. Not going to get paid for it, but I’ll do another three or four concepts for this park just because. I suppose it’s another component of what the blog author talked about with ‘not being a team player’ and such. Perception I guess. I see a lot of ads wanting ‘passionate’ or ‘people with a passion for’ to fill a position. What’s enough, or not enough? Ignoring the HR speak (where it means someone who will work for little or no pay), is it measured in hours or intensity or specific activities? I add this not to derail the original topic into another job posting rant, but as another consideration in work/life balance. For some people they happen to coincide enough that balance is not an issue because it doesn’t exist – their life happens to revolve around the subject of their work (not necessarily their actual work – meaning their friends and social activities and such are all within the group of landscape architects). For the rest of us with more diverse interests, that balance is very much a challenge.September 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm #156491allandParticipant
Refreshing to see an article on reality. Will we change the culture?September 5, 2012 at 9:46 pm #156490Leslie B WagleParticipant
There was a lot to digest there, and yes he could have shared more how he managed the intermediate steps to self employment. But then he was talking about a widespread condition and did make the point that “My practice fills a tiny niche and I recognize that it is not financially viable for the profession as a whole,” which I think is a key to understanding the small office.
Unfortunately, the employee stress syndrome is alive and well in fields other than design. We know that medicine abuses interns; I’ve witnessed the professional roller coaster a friend of mine has been on for several years in an engineering field. And unless I missed it, the author’s list of reasons for the widespread levels of stress didn’t include just plain high unemployment/competition out there. Lean amounts of work can make employers frantic, and they know there will be a pile of resumes to look through for any opening – which can ripple into putting cynical or even unconscious pressures on the current staff.
But he argues that it’s less than ideal even in the best of times. The problem just transforms into a rush to make hay while the sun IS shining, outrun the competition, or save for the next dark cloud that will eventually arrive. All those things just cycle around and take on the pattern of a “tradition.”
I think the life balance issue is there no matter what. When you work for yourself, you may not find enhanced income, security, control of the type of projects, or the hours. The decision to go solo usually has to do with running out of offices in the area but not wanting to uproot family, or seeing a good moment to “jump,” or just wanting to make that lunge because of a deep seated need for testing oneself in such an adventure.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.