Saturday, January 22, 2011

The German model to Work-Life Balance

I had my three-month “review” this week. I think it went company wants to keep me employed, which is an exciting feeling. My official title can be struggling Jr. Engineer turned less-struggling Jr. Engineer with benefits! Just awesome, every little bit helps. I was surviving the last three months grasping the reality of no more student perks and tag team along those super expensive real-world prices. What a roller coaster ride from only four months back.

Now that my work life is a little more secured, I can focus on my new work-life balance philosophy. I will blog on it. About training with a new approach.

I just read Eddy’s blog and appreciate that we share many of the same real-world experiences in regards to training (and he’s only been working a few weeks into an intern job!). ;)

I’ve also noticed a shift from my previous training. Not only are my numbers in training significantly down during this time of the year, but my pace times are slower and my heart rates are in the low 190s whereas the same time last year was more in the 170s. I can blame the constant supplies of ice cream and doughnuts in the office it seems...

Okay, enough with the excuses. I did came across this interesting article from The Globe and Mail that was published in early November last year as part of a week series on work-life balance, titled “Part 4 Harder worker? No life? Just act more like the Germans.” I sit here reading it on a late Friday evening, at both curious and open to new ideas.


Anyway, here are some key findings:

On the work-life balance dilemma:

“Work matters, Prof. Hurka says, much more than its life-loving critics care to acknowledge. “If you ask what are the things that make life worthwhile, one of them is pleasure, satisfaction, feeling good. But another one is achievement. If you have work that is challenging and calls on your abilities, and then you succeed at it, that’s worthwhile in itself. So it’s a mistake to talk about work versus your life – work is a valuable element in your life.””

The article covers itself by limiting this statement true for only the good kind of work that requires you to challenge yourself:

“... Bad work is more problematic for the way it degrades life, and no one should have to submit to cruel bosses, unhealthy conditions or the assembly-line mindlessness critiqued by Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times.”

One approach to rectifying the problem during a long day:

“It’s not our employer’s job to find work-life balance for us, it’s our job – we have to carve out moments of self-nourishment in an incredibly busy day. These can be tiny things: Instead of sitting at a desk, glued to the computer, eating yogurt, force yourself to get out, go for a walk or to a gallery, if only for 45 minutes.”

Shall defenitely try to make it a priority to not miss my workouts after work.

On the German model:

“...Notoriously productive and efficient, Germans nonetheless spend many fewer hours in the workplace than do North Americans...”

“...[Germans] accept the collective understanding that the workplace is designed for actual work. They don’t share our compulsion to drag out the day with the distractions many Canadians consider the redeeming side of office servitude: chattering with cubicle mates, surfing the Web, moaning about how late we get home to the kids after a hard day’s labour.”

I concur with the German model approach. I guess the model starts with investing less with more. I can champion the task at hand and work harder to get it done efficiently. Similarly every workout and every week should have a meaningful gradual progress to peak for that key race, whether a build/speed/tapering week or intervals/recovery/tempo workout, all should be taken into consideration.

Bottom line, it’s efficiency on both accounts:

“In life, as on the job, hard work can be a pleasure – if only we’d start admitting it.”

Now when I train, just gotta put the German model to work. =)

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