EDITORIAL: The trouble is you want it all

EDITORIAL: The trouble is you want it all - The biggest sacrifice I made to my career was neglecting my partner of 11 years, who then left me. I made the mistake of putting work first just once too often.' This - from a senior female manager in her fortie

by Rufus Olins, editor-in-chief, Matthew Gwyther, editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The biggest sacrifice I made to my career was neglecting my partner of 11 years, who then left me. I made the mistake of putting work first just once too often.' This - from a senior female manager in her forties - was one of many hand-written replies from the 2,000 people who responded to our fourth MT/Ceridian survey into Work/Life Balance. A one-time superwoman who crashed to earth.

We, the consumers of information, are subjected to a ceaseless barrage of statistics, studies, surveys and reports these days. But when you see the ink fresh on the page frankly expressing a sentiment like that, it brings you up with a start.

Four years after the creation of the work/life survey, it is no less shocking to see the number of unhappy managers in the British workforce.

Very little progress has been made in resolving the competing demands of work and home, leaving most of us feeling that there simply isn't enough time to go around.

There has been no lack of proposed panaceas. Flexible working, more enlightened maternity deals, better childcare facilities, concierge schemes, sabbaticals and portfolio careers are all very well. They help many of us to keep more plates spinning for a little longer, but they are not solving the underlying problem.

Seven out of 10 of us feel that the pressure is increasing. And it tends to be those with children who suffer the most.

Talking of the kids, an announcement from the National Statistics Office that British women are having fewer children than ever before went almost unnoticed during the general election campaign. It said the birth rate has dropped again, to 1.66 children per woman. You do not need a doctorate in economics to understand that the long-term effects of such a low fertility level on the economy could be grave as the tax burden continues to rise. (If you think we've got problems, the Spanish are in a near crisis with a figure of 1.15.)

Far be it from us at MT to start an annual reader's Fertility Award for the largest number of offspring produced, but it seems as if there are some hard choices to be made here. As the 'Joy of Work' guru Richard Reeves suggested in the magazine last month: 'Working hard at a job you love should not make you a social pariah.' Each of us has to accept that you can't have it all.

On a more cheerful note, MT has picked up another award: editor Matthew Gwyther (on the right) has just won Business Writer of the Year in the annual PPA awards, the magazine world's Oscars. The celebrations left his powers of balance a little impaired, but he's back on an even keel now.

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