Work/Life Balance: Do Analytic Professionals Have It? - InformationWeek

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Data Management // Big Data Analytics
10:05 AM
Bryan Beverly
Bryan Beverly

Work/Life Balance: Do Analytic Professionals Have It?

You use analytics in your career, but do you also apply the same principles and tools to your personal life?

(Image: Anton Watman/Shutterstock)

(Image: Anton Watman/Shutterstock)

Question -- When you hear the phrase "work/life balance," what comes to mind? Does it mean having the SAS University Edition on your laptop so that you can squeeze in some work while at the beach? Does it mean having one spouse work outside of the home and the other work inside of the home? Does it mean having a place at work where new mothers can express milk? Does it mean having a company Blackberry while praying that you will not be called on the weekends? Does it mean that you can bring your kids to work if the schools close unexpectedly? Does it mean that after clocking an eight-hour day, you still have to cook, clean, do laundry, help with homework, and walk the dog? Does it mean that you would prefer to have more vacation days than a salary increase? Does it mean that you do personal tasks at work and work tasks at home? Does it mean participating in a telework program? Is "work/life balance" something like unicorns, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy? Here are some examples of "work/life balance" from comic strip artist Scott Adams.

Work/life balance is a concept that addresses the goal of allocating equal time, resources and energy between career and personal objectives. The phrase is often couched as a quest to either have an equal balance between work and personal related activities, or an acceptable range of imbalance based upon one's health, financial and family status at any given time.

While all working adults are affected by the need, I want to posit the argument that this concept is especially meaningful for analytics professionals. Being knowledge workers, work/life balance can be nebulous because we are always working in our heads. The blessing and curse of the analytics profession is that it shapes how we see life and is incorporated into how we live. Let's be honest, how many of us blend the tools of our profession into how we approach planning personal and family events? How many of us use analytics to determine household budgets and cash flow trends? How many of us depend on statistical apparatuses to assess if our kids are getting enough playing time on the soccer field or in the lacrosse games? In effect, I am advancing the idea, that for us, analytics is not only a means by which we draw incomes, but also an interpretative frame of reference by which we perceive the world around us, engage with others and make decisions.

Prima facie, work/life balance for analytic professionals may seem to be a given; analytics transcends both domains seamlessly. One's weltanschauung is that of data facts, analysis, logical conclusions and the search for deeper understanding; in short, the phrase "the numbers don't lie" is your mantra. As an analytics professional, you have it all -- the best of work and non-work life.

On the other hand, questions arise. Does having it all mean that all is done well? Does having analytics transparently merged into one's life mean that the quality of one's life is good? Is there a risk that other people become nothing more than data points, whose feelings are irrelevant? Is there a danger that in seeing the world in aggregate, that the specific concerns of some people are ignored? Is quantity of daily achievements synonymous with quality of life? Does doing it all mean that everything is done well?

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