Horrible Bosses: Sheryl Sandberg Leans In and Speaks Out About the Importance of Work/Life Balance

I'm not a big fan of giant multinational corporations in general, but if they have to exist, I wish more of them were run by people like Sheryl Sandberg. The Facebook CEO was in Dublin yesterday, and I was in the audience when she was interviewed by journalist Edel Coffey at Facebook's European HQ on Hanover Quay.

Sandberg was funny and likeable as she talked about everything from gender quotas (she has mixed feelings on them) to choosing a life partner (pick someone who is going to pull their weight around the house).

But one thing came across strongly - not only is she a passionate advocate of women in the business world, famously encouraging women to "lean in" to their careers,  but she believes that both men and women need a life outside the office. While she's become known as an advocate for working mothers, she paid tribute to women who stay at home with their kids, pointing out that if this domestic work is taken seriously and given the credit it deserves, more men will feel able to choose to stay home too.

Sheryl Sandberg (Image courtesy of Getty and Bloomberg) Sheryl Sandberg (Image courtesy of Getty and Bloomberg)

She made it clear that people who take time out from work to have children should not be punished for it. And although she acknowledged that sometimes she feels a bit guilty about missing out on her kids' school events, she also said she leaves the office every day at half past five, so she can spend the evening with her family.


You don't have to have children to find this refreshing. Many of us have worked in places where just being present in the office seems more important than doing your actual work well. I once worked in a place where no one EVER left before six thirty, especially our bosses, which meant I couldn't leave earlier even if I literally had no work I could do that day. Which of course also meant that I stretched my work out over the day in order to fill in the time, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. But there's no "I'm going to be the last one in this office and you'd all better stay as late as me!" for Sheryl!

And I bet the people who work for her appreciate this. Because really, unless you're a surgeon or a nurse or working in another emergency service, the world will not end if everyone clocks off at five or five thirty. Our parents' generation who worked in offices were seldom forced to stay in the office until eight.

Ah the hours are grand, 18 hour days, 8 days a week... Ah the hours are grand, 18 hour days, 8 days a week...

But in many workspaces, arriving early and leaving late has become an unofficial part of the culture, and as many people live in fear of losing their jobs, it's harder for workers to complain about it, not least because fewer people are in unions. So they end up working pretty much all the time, checking mails and filing stuff when they eventually leave their workplace. What a life.


So tell us, do you work somewhere that acknowledges people need to live actual lives away from work? Or are you expected to devote yourself to the office 24/7? What jobs do you think are best for balancing your time (I have to say, being a freelance journalist isn't bad for this - I much prefer it to my old office magazine jobs)? And how do you think employers could make things easier for their employees to find a decent work/life balance?

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