High-flyers are the envy of most people. They have a career to die for, and the lifestyle to go with it. Even their children are shiny and polished. They have it all; but do they? Research commissioned by the London based law firm Howard Kennedy, shows that 69% of households with income over £100K have issues with their private lives.
I am astonished that this comes as a surprise to anyone. What it takes to go up the corporate ladder is hard graft, putting the hours in and putting your family second. As a society we have applauded this mode of operating because our measure of success has typically been the trappings of what the income gets you, rather than what you have to give up to get that income.
Living a balanced life and ensuring that your personal relationships are cared for is not what tops the conversation at dinner parties; rather it is our latest purchases from houses, to holidays, to cars that we discuss, and generally, the bigger the better. So, we chase more trappings to prove we are successful.
I quote a piece of research by London School of Economics in my book, Octopus on Treadmill: Women, Health, Success, Happiness which ranks the factors that affect our wellbeing and the top 4 are:
- Mental Health
- Personal Relationships
- Physical Health
High-flyers are flying high because most of the time they have zeroed in on income, and are going for it full throttle, with society cheering them on. Unfortunately, they pay the price with their personal relationships, physical and mental health.
According to the research by Howard Kennedy, work can be as destructive for a relationship as infidelity which is ahead of the impact of the stress of having children, or the impact of having financial difficulties. I think the impact of work is worse and more insidious than infidelity. It is the acceptable face of infidelity you suffer all the disruption of it, but partners cannot even rant and rage against work, as there is no moral high ground to occupy. There isn’t another man or woman involved, and you are both handsomely compensated for the disruption, with money and fabulous holidays; so what are you complaining about?
The sad fact is that fabulous holidays, as lovely as they are, do not make up for all the evenings you have to cope with screaming toddlers on your own because your partner is working late yet again! So, you take it out on your partner when they least expect it, and it eats away at your relationship.
It is held as a badge of honour to come straight off an all-night flight, have a shower in the business class lounge and head straight into a business meeting. How about flipping this round and heading off the flight and perhaps skipping the shower (the kids wont mind) and going to do the school run because you haven’t seen the kids for two weeks and giving the poor old partner a break? And then perhaps heading to the office in the afternoon, if you must; or better still, taking the day off and spending it with your partner because you have been away for two weeks? This is what I will call intelligent scheduling where you are taking care of your health and personal relationships while earning money. Admittedly not every organisation allows such flexibility but if the high-flyers don’t model this behaviour what chance do those lower down the rungs have?
Life is about priorities. You need to understand the things that affect your wellbeing and schedule your life around them. It takes a little bit of planning and a little bit of flexibility on the part of organisations to allow their employees to live a balanced life.
We need to change our mindset where we routinely allow work to impinge unapologetically on our personal lives, but hardly ever the other way around. That is just unsustainable and absurd. We are human and have personal lives.
If you want to keep your high-flying best talent, you must take care of them by helping them balance their lives and not live a one-sided life solely focused on income. Volkswagen switched off some employees’ access to email after hours because it was disrupting their home life. This was some 8 years ago, why is this not common place today? Everyone loses in the end if employees’ private lives are not protected.