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: The truth about the balance
  • 8/2/2017 8:29:39 AM
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I'm not so sure that we're doing "less" work.  We are able to do more work at a faster pace so if we can do in 30 hours what took 40 hours 75 years ago are we doing less work if we shift to a 30 hour week?  The type of work that many people do has changed as well, much more of what we do is creative or problem solving tasks.  Chipping away at these in a mechanical manner like they are an assembly line job doesn't work so I think it's hard to say that a set number of hours per week equals a number of tasks completed.  

Re: The truth about the balance
  • 8/2/2017 8:24:46 AM
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"What if I already have enough work and what if I need more of something besides work?" 

This is something that I think a lot of employers miss.  Just because someone is good at their job doesn't mean that what they need is more work to do.  Everyone has a point that they will burn out, why is it so common that we keep trying to find that point for every employee?  Employers need to be careful in the future as the work place changes.  Employees are leaving jobs more quickly and there is a culture of picking your next job not as a place to use your skills but to gain more skills in order to move on to your next job. 

Re: The truth about the balance
  • 8/1/2017 11:30:51 AM
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SaneIT, our restless nature that has us constantly moving from one task to the other, usually without pause is hardwired into us. That has to be managed or reprogrammed to the new realities. Balance is a fledging goal. Also with less work per person, compensation scales have to be reworked.

Re: The truth about the balance
  • 8/1/2017 10:24:09 AM
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One of the executives I worked for had a saying: The reward for good work is more good work.

He would say this to praise good results, and it makes sense in a way. Gainful employment is a good thing, and the groups, organizations and companies that provide good value for their clients or customers will be able to continue.

But it struck me as slightly off. What if I already have enough work and what if I need more of something besides work?

Re: The truth about the balance
  • 8/1/2017 8:18:25 AM
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@rbaz the point about frontier times and physical labor is a good one.  Most jobs now there is not the ability to get ahead in the same sense.  If you were building a log home or splitting firewood for the upcoming winter a couple extra hours of work when you were feeling up to it would pay off in a measurable way.  Most of us have artificial deadlines and if we finish something early there is another project or task with an artificial deadline attached that is thrown our way. I know that there is a lot of push back because a shorter work week for everyone means more people to cover current business hours but if everyone working is fresher, service is faster and employees are happier isn't that what we keep hearing is the goal in work life balance?  

Re: The truth about the balance
  • 7/31/2017 9:21:13 PM
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I think those who are contracters may have it more difficult.  There is an added presure to perform because a contract job can be eliminated on a whim. 

Re: The truth about the balance
  • 7/31/2017 9:13:28 PM
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It reminds me of the old saying, "Hard work never killed anybody." Oh yeah ... ask the people who built the pyramids, or the Southern cities during colonial times, or anybody who served in a concentration camp in WWII. Hard work is destructive in more ways than one.

Re: The truth about the balance
  • 7/31/2017 3:20:29 PM
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The promise of working hard to getting ahead was necessary for the frontier days. I don't think our lives are the same even though we tend to want to mimic it as often as possible for nostalgic sake.

Re: The truth about the balance
  • 7/31/2017 3:11:43 PM
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This view of working benefits the owners of the company and executives the most.  The promise of working hard and getting ahead has not been true for many. 

Re: The truth about the balance
  • 7/31/2017 2:34:36 PM
NO RATINGS

As we move forward in technological automated society with decreasing demand for human labor, we are going to have to discard this view of work and compensation. We cling to the traditional almost to a fault. After a while we forget why we had adapted those beliefs to begin with and are they still relevant.

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