Work Life Balance

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JOHN PETROZZI: Hi. Welcome to Living is Easy with John and Josh. I’m John Petrozzi.

JOSH HARPER: And I’m Josh Harper. Today’s show is all about work-life balance, how to achieve it, and what it’s all about.

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s right. Work-Life Balance – have you heard of that term before, Josh?

JOSH HARPER: I have. But how would you define it, John?

JOHN PETROZZI: I suppose it’s just trying to strike a balance between the hours and time you spend at work and also the hours and time you spend on your personal life.

JOSH HARPER: So it’s fairly self-explanatory.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, exactly. But it has become a huge issue, especially over the last 15 years or so. I’m thinking about this the other day and trying to work out why work-life balance is a big issue now when it wasn’t for our parents or even the generation before that. So what I came up with was two or three generations ago, they had to work to put bread and food on the table, so work wasn’t a chore; it’s really an end-result of the goal to try and find the opportunities, make the money, put a roof over your head and food on the table for yourself and family.

But these days, opportunities and money are easier to come by, and the push isn’t for food on the table. The push is more for achieving a balance and a passion for life, trying to find the purpose and meaning for life, all those sorts of things. So people are different compared to what they were generations ago and their needs are different.

So whenever you go and work in a big corporation, the way that they try to attract and retain staff is by producing a really good work-life balance situation.

JOSH HARPER: Looking after their staff.

JOHN PETROZZI: Exactly. There’s a Google headquarters in the States—it’s not a Google office; it’s a campus, like a university. They’ve got everything there. They’ve got facilities for child-minding, places to get your car washed, gyms, ping-pong, exercise equipments, restaurants and bistros, movie cinemas, a whole lot of things. Basically, what they try to do is incorporate someone’s personal life in their work life and intermesh it. so it means that people love going to work and they also stay there longer, which means they’re more productive for the company, so the company actually makes more money from their employees. Also, the employees don’t mind doing it because they’re actually having their leisure time at the office as well.

JOSH HARPER: Would you not think that there’s something wrong incorporating work and play?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, some people don’t see the difference at all. I think, especially because with IT, you’re sitting down all day, and if you just sit down for 8 hours and have a lunch break in the middle of it, compared to being able to have this Google campus where you’re actually able to go out there and exercise for a part of the day, come back, work longer hours and still have your exercise and leisure activities intermingled with the day.

JOSH HARPER: Yeah, right.

JOHN PETROZZI: I don’t know if I could do it, but I think the impetus is really down to the employee or the person to try and figure out what they want from work and what they want from their personal life as well.


JOHN PETROZZI: So there are some barriers to work-life balance, and particularly, those ones are with employers. So if you work in a company that encourages and rewards long hours, then for you to work out the corporate ladder or make more money, you’ll be needing to work more hours, which means it takes away from time at home, on your own and with the family.

JOSH HARPER: So you’re saying this is bad and there’s no balance?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, that bit there isn’t very balanced. That’s quite a big barrier to achieving a good work-life balance. The way that you think about work in terms of “Is it a chore?” or “Is it a necessity?” will also impede on work-life balance as well. If you feel that you need to get up every morning and go to work, as opposed to jumping out of bed and wanting to go to work, there’s a difference there. It’s a fine difference, but a difference nonetheless. It means that the person who jumps out of bed has a passion for going to work or has a passion for living a fairly balanced life, compared to the one that drags himself out to work and a mindset where work is more of a challenge and a chore and they want to try and finish their week and get to the weekend and enjoy their weekend.

JOSH HARPER: Can these things lead to stress, John? Can it affect your family?

JOHN PETROZZI: Definitely, if you’re working too many hours. I’ve got a statistics of a survey here. It says according to a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Company, 4 out of 10 employees state that their jobs are very or extremely stressful. Those in high-stress jobs are 3 times more likely than others to suffer from stress-related medical conditions and twice as likely to quit. The studies state that women, in particular, report stress-related to the conflict between work and family.

So there’s a battle here between work and family, particularly for women. Unfortunately, women are being taken out of the work force and oftentimes, they are the ones that are the high achievers at university and the ones that actually have more understanding with work-life balance, compared to men. Again, that’s a generalisation, but I’ve read that through statistics.

Unfortunately, the women are getting pulled out of the work environment. It means that people who have got less life balance are getting higher up the ranking ladder, which means that they’re hiring people who are similar to them. So they’re hiring people who are more likely to be workaholics and are more likely to be dismissive of their personal and family life and engage more into work, which means you get a lopsided perception of how work should be from the inside.

JOSH HARPER: And this, in the long term, would probably cause problems around the office?

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, definitely. Because there’ll be some people who will be constantly battling to try and achieve more time for themselves, so they may not answer emails straight away. In our culture now of instant access to information and emails and communication, people want to respond straight away. So if you’re sitting there at the computer and emails come through, but if you’re a person who wants more work-life balance and you think, “Those emails can wait for another hour or two; I’m engaging in this activity that I’m doing now,” which is work or whatever.

If they’re trying to produce boundaries in their work but if their work doesn’t actually allow them to produce boundaries very well (like if you’re working at a stock exchange, you need to respond to market changes straight away or if you’re in, I don’t know, some other high-stress environment where you need to respond to emails and communications straight away), then that’s a barrier for you personally to achieve a life balance.

JOSH HARPER: Yeah, definitely, especially when it pushes into home and you have to answer emails from home.

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s right. Yeah. Just recently, I got a new phone, and the option was to try to get email on this thing, and I thought, “No way,” because that means that emails are intruding into my personal life and off hours. I’ve tried hard to try and produce some boundaries around work and around not letting that spill into personal life. To have email all the time would be horrible.

JOSH HARPER: Is there a point where you should say no and stop things coming into your home?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, it has to be. Because if your work spills into your home life and personal life, it means that you’ve got less time for family and friends, and it means that you’ve got less time for achieving your goals.

When we come back from the break, I want to talk about the seven factors of your life that everyone should be looking at to see if you’re too lopsided or spending too much time on one particular area. Yeah, I’m looking forward to talk about that actually.


JOSH HARPER: Welcome back to Living is Easy with John and Josh. John, before the break, you’ve mentioned the seven major areas of life.

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, that’s right. Basically, the things that every individual strives for is a balance in these seven areas:

1.      Vocational/Work

2.      Mental

3.      Financial

4.      Family

5.      Spiritual

6.      Social

7.      Physical

So, if you achieve a balance in all these areas every day, every week, every year, you’re more likely to achieve a balanced work and balanced life.

JOSH HARPER: And be happier.

JOHN PETROZZI: And be happier, yeah, exactly. So just have a think about someone who goes in to work: they get into work early and they leave late, and they don’t get time for any exercise during the day and they have their lunch at their desk. By the end of the day, they’ll be quite exhausted because they wouldn’t have had time to replenish their energy, they wouldn’t have eaten very well. Depending on how stimulating or rewarding their work is, they may be at the end of their day quite grumpy and feeling a bit ripped off.

Imagine if they take all that feeling back home, whether they’re with a family or on their own. If they were with a family, they might download all that information on their family, which means that they will actually bring all that bad energy back home. And if they live on their own, that means they might bring that bad energy back home and not eat very well, drink too much alcohol-

JOSH HARPER: And sleep.

JOHN PETROZZI: Not sleep, watch too much TV.

JOSH HARPER: And it becomes a cycle.

JOHN PETROZZI: A huge cycle. Yeah. So here’s something that we can all do—and I do this often—basically, sit down with a pen and paper and think back (course your mind back to the last week and two weeks, as long as they’re sort of typical weeks), look back and see: How many hours did you spend on things at home? How many hours did you spend at work, sleeping, being social with friends and family, spending quality time with family (not sort of a short meal at home and the kids are off playing with their friends or whatever, but some quality time with the family)? How long you spend meditating, praying, or spending time alone? How long did you spend working on your budget and wealth creation? How long did you spend exercising, learning new things, and learning new hobbies? So try and differentiate times over the last two weeks that you spent on these things.

JOSH HARPER: and do you have a rough idea of a balance, John?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, a balance should really be a proportion of those seven areas. It doesn’t mean that if you work for 10 hours, you need 10 hours of social times, for instance.


JOHN PETROZZI: That will be different for everybody. For instance, for me, I suppose vocational is on the top of my list, but I’ve also got mental time in there as well and the need to be stimulated, so working on these shows is stimulation for me. I find that if I don’t do this sort of stuff, then my work-life balance will start to diminish.

I need to spend time contemplating life in general, I read lots of books in terms of goal-setting, spirituality, and also just spend time on my own as well. I find that’s important too.

Times when I don’t have enough time for family, for looking at finances, and spending time with friends, I find that I get more stressed and upset. And if I don’t exercise, my energy levels drop. So the ultimate goal is to try and work out a recipe for yourself. It is individual for everybody. Try and work out what proportion of the week you need to spend on all these seven areas.

So if you feel that you’re spending too much time at work, for instance, you need to sort of work out, “Am I achieving the goals that I want to achieve at work? Am I happy at work? Am I happy doing that sort of work that I do? Do I enjoy spending time with the people that I work with?” because all those things will play a toll on your stress levels and also on your enjoyment and fulfillment in life.

JOSH HARPER: And what if you don’t, John? I’m fairly sure there’d be people out there that don’t.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Well, changes need to be made. In terms of change, change can be an exciting thing. Change can a lot of time be very stressful and anxiety-provoking, but the only constant in life is change; nothing will ever stay the same. Your week last week might be the same as this week, so if you’re expecting to be living the same life this year that you did last year, you’ve got a big shock coming, because that expectation just can’t be met because things are different: people are different in your life, you’re different, the way you look at things is going to be different as well because you’ve read different things, you’ve experienced different things as well, you’ve met new people, you’re doing your jobs, and you’re older as well, your body has changed compared to last year.

So to be expecting the same result as the year before will be very heart-breaking and anxiety-provoking as well, because you won’t be the same. So it’s really important to try and figure out what you want out of life, because if you’re going into a job that creates an imbalance in your time, for instance, and it’s not congruent with your values and what you actually want out of life, then you’re going to be upset with work, you’re going to be upset with your social life as well, and over time, you’ll get burned out.

When we come back from the break, we’ll talk about burnout.


JOSH HARPER: Welcome back to Living is Easy with John and Josh. Today, we’re talking about Work-Life Balance. John, before the break, you mentioned “burnout.” What exactly is it?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, I have a definition here. Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest, usually in the context of work.

I think once in my life, I’ve hit this burnout. I remember it was when I was starting up my business and practice, and it was probably in the sixth year, so I’ve had the practice now for ten years. I think it was in the sixth year, because a lot of things in my life started to change and I was working really long hours and my expectations weren’t being met. My expectations to reality weren’t matching, so obviously, I was getting closer towards exhaustion and not being fulfilled. So things had to happen. I didn’t actually have a holiday (having a holiday is often a really good way of breaking a downward spiral cycle). If you can’t achieve a holiday, you need to sit down with someone and have a talk about it.

So, burnout is a real phenomenon, probably happening a lot more now than it did in the past. I think the reason, again, is because it’s got to do with our perceptions of work and balance in life. So again, in these two and three generations ago, our generation had to work to make money to put food on the table; whereas, now, there’s a lot more money and opportunities around, so we need to work to be fulfilled and happy.

If we’re working in an environment that isn’t fulfilling our expectations, it’s going to lead us towards being unfulfilled and close towards getting exhausted and burnt out.

JOSH HARPER: And how would you explain being burnt out?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, it’s got to do with, first, your body starts to have physical symptoms: you’ll be very exhausted and tired, waking up in the morning feeling like you haven’t slept at all, being more susceptible to irritations and diseases (cold sores, cold and flu; a big one is stomach upsets and digestive problems, diarrhoea, constipation), being irritable, anxious. They’re the main things that you can look at.

Often, you won’t see them on yourself because it will be a loved one around you that sees them first. They’ll think, “Honey, you’re really quite irritable. What’s going on?” If your response is, “No, I’m okay; don’t worry about it,” it’s a real sign that you are very hyper-sensitive and talking about those issues brings up a lot of emotions for you. So, to not talk about them means that you avoid talking about those emotions and you’ll avoid those heartaches, but they need to be spoken about, because changes need to happen.

Here’s an interesting thing I found on the internet. It’s a word called “karoshi.” It’s a Japanese term and it’s literal translation is “death from overwork.” I’ll read to you a little bit about this:

“Karoshi” which can be translated quite literally from Japanese as “death from overwork” is occupational sudden death. Although this category has a significant count, Japan is one of the few countries that report it in a statistics as a separate category. The major medical causes of karoshi death are heart attack and stroke due to stress. So basically, they’re healthy people, usually in their mid-30s who die suddenly of a stroke or heart attack.

JOSH HARPER: And does that happen often?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, in Japan they report it, and we’ve seen it in the media. Even last year, there was some high-ranking corporate head that died suddenly, unfortunately, from heart disease or heart attack or stroke, and this guy was working huge hours. You can put it down to the body just being stressed out.

I remember when we were at uni and there were some professors doing experiments on rats. What they did was stress the rats out, and what would happen was they would monitor their heart rate and breath rate and stress levels from the blood. They found that putting them into enclosed environments and stressing them out, their stress levels increased.

It’s the same thing that happens to us as well. If we get put into a stressful environment, our heart rate increases, our ability to fight diseases reduces, our cortisol, which is a stress hormone, in our system increases, and if you’ve got that adrenalin pumping through your system all the time and cortisol pumping all the time, your body basically from the inside starts to burn up. It becomes fatigued and less able to resist disease.

So it’s really important to figure out what you want in life and try and achieve it as well.

JOSH HARPER: Can we avoid burnout by doing those seven things we talked about earlier?

JOHN PETROZZI: Exactly. Yeah. And just back onto those seven major areas—which are the vocational, mental, financial, family, spiritual, social, and physical—the thing I asked you to do before was work out where you spend your time during the week. Another one is write a list of the things that truly stimulate you at work, and work out what proportion of the day you actually do these things.

For me, the thing that I really love to do is adjust patients. As a chiropractor, I love to put my hands on someone’s spine, work out what’s going on and adjust them. That whole interaction is what I love to do.

So work out what it is during the day that you really love to do, what you’re passionate about, and be real about it and try and work out what portion of the day you’re spending your time on doing that.

JOSH HARPER: Do you think most people will get a shock once they write down these things and just take a look at it in black and white?

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, I’d like to think some people will be pleasantly surprised. But I think a lot of people will actually be quite horrified at the amount of time they spend on the things they’re really passionate about, because it might be only a small portion of the day.

Because the second and sort of final task is write a list of things at work—and even during your day—that you find totally uninspiring and zapping up your energy. You can try and work out what proportion of the day you’re doing those as well. Because pretty quickly, if the last two weeks that you’ve been living, you’re living in a space of uninspired work or totally being inspired, with that information, it’s really up to you to try and work out where you are now and where you really want to be, and where you want that balance to be in your life. The choice is really up to you.

JOSH HARPER: and that concludes today’s episode on Work-Life Balance. John, what do you want our listeners to take home with them today?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, with work-life balance, I suppose the decision to achieve it is up to you. It’s pointless to try to blame your work situation or your boss, because they’re just a person, just like you are. It’s difficult to just blame processes in your work as well, because you’re working in those processes and it’s your choice.

So if you find that you’re working or your life is going in a direction that is not enriching, it’s time to really take a look at what you want to do in life, what kind of work you want to do, and what you want out of your social environment and family life as well. So ask yourself: Do you need to bring pictures of family to work and put them on your desk to try and give you a bit more of a friendly environment at the office? If you’re not socially in communication with people at work, does it mean you need to sort of organise a cake for birthdays and to get around the cake and have a chat, or go out for coffee or pizza nights, maybe develop a sporting team or a passion at work, a team competition or something like that, something that gets people talking?

But really, the choice is up to you. Make it your choice today, I suppose, to work out what you did in the last two weeks. What time of day or what part of the day did you spend on yourself? What part of the day did you spend on work? What part of the day did you love? What part of the day did you hate? And be real about the proportion of these times, because if you want next year to be better this year, then you got to make some changes now.

So stay tuned, because in future episodes, we’re going to have an expert who’s going to talk about work-life balance. His name is Ian Hutchinson. It’s going to be great to talk to him about work-life balance and his perception of it.

So that’s all we have time for today. Thanks for joining us. You’ve been listening to Living is Easy with John and Josh. I’m John Petrozzi.

JOSH HARPER: And I’m Josh Harper.

JOHN PETROZZI: Until next time, stay well and stay happy.