Work/Life Balance: Do Analytic Professionals Have It?


(Image: Anton Watman/Shutterstock)

(Image: Anton Watman/Shutterstock)

Question -- When you hear the phrase "work/life balance," what comes to mind? Does it mean having the SAS University Edition on your laptop so that you can squeeze in some work while at the beach? Does it mean having one spouse work outside of the home and the other work inside of the home? Does it mean having a place at work where new mothers can express milk? Does it mean having a company Blackberry while praying that you will not be called on the weekends? Does it mean that you can bring your kids to work if the schools close unexpectedly? Does it mean that after clocking an eight-hour day, you still have to cook, clean, do laundry, help with homework, and walk the dog? Does it mean that you would prefer to have more vacation days than a salary increase? Does it mean that you do personal tasks at work and work tasks at home? Does it mean participating in a telework program? Is "work/life balance" something like unicorns, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy? Here are some examples of "work/life balance" from comic strip artist Scott Adams.

Work/life balance is a concept that addresses the goal of allocating equal time, resources and energy between career and personal objectives. The phrase is often couched as a quest to either have an equal balance between work and personal related activities, or an acceptable range of imbalance based upon one's health, financial and family status at any given time.

While all working adults are affected by the need, I want to posit the argument that this concept is especially meaningful for analytics professionals. Being knowledge workers, work/life balance can be nebulous because we are always working in our heads. The blessing and curse of the analytics profession is that it shapes how we see life and is incorporated into how we live. Let's be honest, how many of us blend the tools of our profession into how we approach planning personal and family events? How many of us use analytics to determine household budgets and cash flow trends? How many of us depend on statistical apparatuses to assess if our kids are getting enough playing time on the soccer field or in the lacrosse games? In effect, I am advancing the idea, that for us, analytics is not only a means by which we draw incomes, but also an interpretative frame of reference by which we perceive the world around us, engage with others and make decisions.

Prima facie, work/life balance for analytic professionals may seem to be a given; analytics transcends both domains seamlessly. One's weltanschauung is that of data facts, analysis, logical conclusions and the search for deeper understanding; in short, the phrase "the numbers don't lie" is your mantra. As an analytics professional, you have it all -- the best of work and non-work life.

On the other hand, questions arise. Does having it all mean that all is done well? Does having analytics transparently merged into one's life mean that the quality of one's life is good? Is there a risk that other people become nothing more than data points, whose feelings are irrelevant? Is there a danger that in seeing the world in aggregate, that the specific concerns of some people are ignored? Is quantity of daily achievements synonymous with quality of life? Does doing it all mean that everything is done well?

What do you think? How well do you think we balance our careers with our personal lives? Does the ability to balance work and life depend on your age, gender, marital, or parental status or some other factor? Is work/life balance given the same priority in the US and Europe? Is it delusional to think that analytics professionals can really manage it all? Please share.

Bryan Beverly, Statistician, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bryan K. Beverly is from Baltimore. He has a BA in sociology from Morgan State University and an MAS degree in IT management from Johns Hopkins University. His continuing education consists of project management training through the ESI International/George Washington University programs. He began his career in 1984, the same year he was introduced to SAS software. Over the course of nearly 30 years, he has used SAS for data processing, analytics, report generation, and application development on mainframes, mini-computers, and PCs. Bryan has worked in the private sector, public sector, and academia in the Baltimore/Washington region. His work initially focused on programming, but over the years has expanded into project management and business development. Bryan has participated in in-house SAS user groups and SAS user group conferences, and has published in SAS newsletters, as well as company-based newsletters. Over time, his publications have expanded from providing SAS technical tips to examining the sociological, philosophical, financial, and political contexts in which IT is deployed. He believes that the key to a successful IT career is to maintain your skills and think like the person who signs your paycheck.

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Re: Is Work/Life Balance Irrelevant for Single People without Kids?
  • 7/27/2017 11:51:55 AM
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@Bryan - I would say that work/life balance applies to everyone.

Yes, single people without kids can afford to spend a lot of time working. But there is still something wrong if these peolpe are working 100+ hours per week for too long. This happens in start-ups and sometimes it works out. If it only lasts for a short time and ends with a big payout, it can be well worth it.

More often, these people "wake-up" after some years and no longer feel the drive or desire to give everything for another guys great idea. They're burned out.

Re: Should the US Adopt a German Model?
  • 7/27/2017 8:16:31 AM
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It would be interesting to see some studies on the "American" style of work/leisure vs. the European. Does the longer vacations and perhaps more stress free lifestyle in other countries contribute more less economically, socially and even contribute to happiness?

The truth about the balance
  • 7/19/2017 4:52:02 PM
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I remember the first time I went to Europe and a gentleman said the difference between Americans and Europeans is that Europeans work to live and Americans live to work. Part of our work addiction is tied to the perception of importance that if we leave all will fall apart. I have had the misfortune of seeing some of my co-workers meet with untimely deaths at a young age and watch the office culture just move on very quickly. It has crushed my perception of my importance. I realize the only place I am irreplaceable is with my family. As much as employers may find me valuable or appreciate my talents my name could be scraped off the door in a New York minute if I met an untimely demise or if management changed.

Achieving work life balance is about setting boundaries and understanding your value at home and work. It's a difficult task and sometimes impossible in certain work environments but if it is not recognized the certain result will be burnout.

The Leisure Class: Does the Quest for Leisure Shape the Work Ethic in Capitalist Countries?
  • 7/18/2017 10:11:06 AM
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Do you think there are class differences is attitudes toward work in capitalist/western countries? Is hard work an option for some but a requirement for others?

 

Re: Should the US Adopt a German Model?
  • 7/18/2017 8:16:24 AM
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I have worked for a couple of large companies with locations in Europe.  When I would see vacation/leave for employees in Germany or would have an employee over there tell me that they were going to "Holiday for a month" it blew my mind.  I struggle to take a week off at a time.  I think what we have in the US is a perception of work that says time spent in the environment is what matters.  This leads to long days at work but not necessarily higher productivity.  I've had some of my most productive work days spending the morning in the office and the afternoon at a wrestling tournament working between watching matches.  Sometimes I think offices are toxic to productivity especially for knowledge workers.   

Re: Choosing to work or live
  • 7/17/2017 8:49:17 PM
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And I would venture to guess that our traditional "work" ethic has been fed by the advertising we see, prodding more stuff to buy, and company management who by the nature of profit and loss wants to see employees putting out more work while not necessarily encouraging a balance between work and play.

Re: Should the US Adopt a German Model?
  • 7/17/2017 7:32:37 PM
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@SaneIT      I think it is the latter.   When they ( Germans) are off the clock they are off the clock and when they are at work that is just what they do for the most part.   I am sure there are slackers everywhere but the pressure to produce is entirely different than in the U.S.

And speaking of slackers, I know exactly what you mean regarding people who just show up and do little more than go through the motions.  It is a work ethic that has already caught up with us, if it were not for Silicon Valley - I would hate to think what our GDP would look like.

Re: Choosing to work or live
  • 7/17/2017 7:25:20 PM
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@Lyndon... yes, here's to relief. Or as a smart co-worker observed to me years ago, no employer is going to say, "Lyndon, you really shouldn't be working so many hours. Slow it down, man!" Most employers are happy to let employees put in as many hours as they're willing -- at least the salaried ones.

Re: Choosing to work or live
  • 7/17/2017 7:23:19 PM
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Culturally, Americans fetishize work. From our two-week vacations (two whole weeks!) to the way we disparage siesta cultures, it's pretty clear how how much we value work, and its by-products, money and material goods.

Re: Should the US Adopt a German Model?
  • 7/17/2017 7:07:13 PM
NO RATINGS

@tomsg: Do you mean non-performers, or those for whom it's just a job, the folks who aren't looking to be superstars or VPs? This is an issue that most organizations haven't really gotten to grips with, and it makes a difference in the work-life balance conversation. 

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