IT Employment

How do you respond to pressure? Work/life balance under threat?

It seems that working life in the 21st century has two speeds -- flat out or unemployed.

When you are the "go-to" guy or gal for a large number of customers it is easy to find yourself being pressured to fly from one job to the next, in order to keep as many of them as possible happy and on side.

The truth of it is if you are too busy to take an occasional break and de-stress you will not be able to keep any of them happy.

Recently I found that I had skipped more lunch breaks than I had taken and this prompted me to stop and re-evaluate my priorities. I decided that my work life balance was in dire peril of tipping over.

I had been rushing from an equipment installation in Salisbury, Wiltshire to a repair job in Weymouth, Dorset. I stopped the car, took out my sandwich box, turned on the radio and relaxed.

Inevitably, the phone rang. Without thinking I answered, to find my next customer asking when I would be there. He was about 30 miles away so I told him I would be with him in an hour.

His reply was one that instantly got my back up:

"Make it 30 minutes, we need you here!"

Yes, the customer is important but your personal health is more important. If I fall ill and don't go to work none of them will be happy. Needless to say, I finished my lunch, took a short stroll, as per my doctor's instructions, and then drove to the job, where I arrived within the aforementioned hour. The customer's problem was user error, not equipment fault so, as you can imagine, I took no great pleasure in completing the documentation for invoicing.

I had a couple of days of annual leave to use up so I booked a Friday and a Monday, to give myself a long weekend off. I needed to rest an injured shoulder and in the last few weeks I have regularly wrenched my damaged tendons, setting my recovery back even further. I thought that a few days of writing, walking by the sea and some gentle banjo picking might help.

The reaction of the customers was mixed. Some wished me a happy holiday, others were indignant that I would not be at their back and call. One even told me that he would be asking my boss to refuse my request, just in case he needed me. Needless to say he was out of luck, I went ahead and took my leave, after all, nobody ever died because his paper handling equipment was out of action for a day.

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

You did the right thing by finishing your lunch and still getting there as YOU said you would. The way I see it, you were 30 miles away, getting there in 30 minutes probably would require you to break a few posted speed limits so it was likely all but impossible to do without putting people's lives at risk. And that shouldn't happen. As for asking a boss to refuse a request for vacation merely because this person "might need you", that's just total BS (especially with the emphasis on "might"). If you have a decent manager, the best that this person would get out of it would be a reminder to you to brief someone else on this client's situation and then the manager would provide that alternate contact to the client. The only thing I question is why you waited so long (several weeks???) to take some time off to let your shoulder heal. At the very least make it known to your company (via the boss) that it happened and ask for reduced lifting (or whatever) to let the shoulder heal. A decent company would understand that this happens and work with you.


Good for you to make a stand for your work life balance. Many people just let their life slide till their health gone bad.


Good for you. You are absolutely correct, nobody is going to die if you take a day off. I am sure to take my breaks most days, while admittedly, there are days that blur by without my noticing. I am a single parent, a graduate student, a full time employee (day job), and a small business owner (on the side). Time management is absolutely critical to me, and I think if you plan correctly, it helps take a lot of pressure off. There comes a point where you pass the "high tempo" working point and move into meltdown, then burn out. I like to call it "going plaid" (ala Space Balls), where you go so fast that suddenly everything blurs together. You have to make time for yourself and your family first. More tasks will be there tomorrow. Just my two cents. AB


For me its important to get a life after work. However some of us want to be indispensable and get ourselves into these tricky situations. What happened to succession planning or leave planning?

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