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Home » How to Make Work-Life Balance Work: Nigel Marsh (Transcript)

How to Make Work-Life Balance Work: Nigel Marsh (Transcript)

Nigel Marsh at TED Talks


What I thought I would do is I would start with a simple request.

I’d like all of you to pause for a moment, you wretched weaklings, and take stock of your miserable existence.

Now that was the advice that St. Benedict gave his rather startled followers in the fifth century. It was the advice that I decided to follow myself when I turned 40.

Up until that moment, I had been that classic corporate warrior — I was eating too much, I was drinking too much, I was working too hard and I was neglecting the family.

And I decided that I would try and turn my life around. In particular, I decided I would try to address the thorny issue of work-life balance.

So I stepped back from the workforce, and I spent a year at home with my wife and four young children. But all I learned about work-life balance from that year was that I found it quite easy to balance work and life when I didn’t have any work. Not a very useful skill, especially when the money runs out.

So I went back to work, and I’ve spent these seven years since struggling with, studying and writing about work-life balance. And I have four observations I’d like to share with you today.

The first is: if society is to make any progress on this issue, we need an honest debate. But the trouble is so many people talk so much rubbish about work-life balance.

All the discussions about flexi-time or dress-down Fridays or paternity leave only serve to mask the core issue, which is that certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged on a day-to-day basis with a young family.

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