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Reconciling odd results of a survey on “work-life balance” and “workload”

Survey data from 348 in-house lawyers on two subjective states of mind, “work-life balance” and “workload,” left me with some questions. As released in InsideCounsel, March 2010 at 50, the lawyers gave these responses when asked “How satisfied are you with the following:” As to work-life balance 31.4 percent were “very satisfied” whereas with “workload” half that were “very satisfied” (16.3%). How can that be?

I take work-life balance to capture the feelings of employees about whether they can have a satisfying equilibrium of existence outside the office and inside the office (See my post of Aug. 21, 2008: work-life balance with 9 references.). If you find you have to get into the office early, turn off the desk light late, and still dig into a pile of emails and memos on the weekends, you are out of kilter. If you can go to the Little League games, hike all day Saturday with no workaholic guilt, and bake on Sunday without emails from clients, you are in a Karma-state.

If that is the desirable life-ledger and if a third of the survey responded that its perfectly fine, how can there be so many less satisfied with their workload (See my post of May 21, 2008: twin bogies of workload and time pressure; and May 21, 2007: interesting legal work and perceptions of workload.)? I may be forcing a round peg into a square hole, but it is possible that large numbers of in-house lawyers feel that they face a flood of work every day, but they can wade through, they can cope, and their weekends and evenings are theirs.