Almost two weeks ago, Facundo, an attorney living in Buenos Aires, decided to work fewer hours. Previously, he got up at dawn, before his three-month-old daughter was awake. After a long work day, which often lasted more than 12 hours, he returned home to find his young daughter asleep again.
“I realized that work can give you a lot of opportunities, but you have just one chance to raise a child,” he said.
How often have you thought about changing your routine in an effort to strike a balance between your professional and personal life? If you do so almost daily, perhaps it is time to make the change: have more quality time for family, hobbies and others.
Although new technologies have simplified some tasks and saved time at work, organizations have grown accustomed to demanding responses 24/7, which has ended up “enslaving” more than one employee. Answering e-mails outside of work hours, receiving work messages on social media or working on a presentation on days off are part of the weekly menu.
Latin America is no exception. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 67% of developed countries, including those of the European Union, have established a maximum 40-hour work week whereas just 9% of Latin American countries have done so.
In addition, some private consultants affirm that Latin Americans can spend up to four hours per day traveling to and from work. Trying to reconcile work life with personal life has become a daunting task. Above all, the infamous practice of “warming the chair” is as dangerous as an excessive workload. “Leaving on time is often frowned upon, which creates a culture of overtime,” says María, a 31-year-old engineer who works for an oil firm in the Argentine capital.
“Striking a balance between personal life and work does not mean the same thing for all workers or all jobs,” says Jamele Rigolini, World Bank economist who specializes in human development and poverty.
But why do we feel so overwhelmed? Why are we unable to balance work with our personal life?
To understand, we need to go back in time a bit. “When women joined the labor force, they began to have this double agenda between work and family. Men tended to disconnect more,” says researcher Patricia Debeljuh, director of the IAE Business School’s Center for Work and Family Reconciliation.
According to the World Bank report Gender at Work, in Latin America and the Caribbean, women’s participation in the labor market has increased 35% since 1990. The study found that in 2010, levels of extreme poverty would have been 30% higher were it not for the extra income women earned from working.
“Nevertheless, currently, both men and women of Y Generation – many of whom were born in the 1980s – want to change the rules. They saw the high price their parents paid because they could not balance work with their personal life,” says Debeljuh.