I think that companies are ethically obligated to support a good work life balance. An important tenet of Catholic Social Teaching is that “the economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy”. When companies refuse to respect the work life balance of their employees exist to serve the company and ensure it makes money. They should be approaching business as a means for their employees to sustain their physical well being so the can continue to serve God and man. When employers don’t respect their employees time it shows a disordered understanding of the function of work. I think the article title “I Came to San Francisco to Change My Life: I Found a Tribe of Depressed Workaholics Living on Top of One Another” perhaps best sums up the idea of work coming before people. It’s a significant ethical problem when companies are creating a tribe of depressed workaholics instead of enabling people to grow into better versions of themselves.
Work life balance has definitely played into my choice of careers. One of the first things I do when I evaluate whether I want to work at a company or not it is to find someone who has worked at the company before and ask them how many hours they expected to work per week. If it’s much over forty, I won’t apply. A employer that doesn’t consider work life balance signals to me that it isn’t a company that cares much about its employees, and therefor isn’t a company I would be interested in working at.
Work life balance is one of the many reasons I refuse to consider working in silicon valley. While this is certainly a general statement that doesn’t apply to all companies, many tech companies in the area don’t provide a good work life balance. For instance, one of the articles posted for us to read talks about a developer who went to the Google I/O 2016 Conference, where the writer says “I saw something horrifying, something I couldn’t shake from the moment I saw it… Eat. Sleep. Code. Repeat. was printed on everything.” This certainly doesn’t sound like work life balance. Google understands work life balance too. I found an article with an abstract that reads “Google research shows that those who rigidly separate their personal and work lives are significantly happier about their well-being than those who tend to blur the lines between the two”. Yet the silicon valley culture is to do as much as possible to blur the lines and keep employees at work, with lavish workplace perks like nap pods and personal chefs. It’s mixing off time and work, when research (and I think most people’s intuitions) signals this is a very bad idea. I find it very difficult to justify working 70 hours per week when I have other people I care about outside of work and other parts of my life to balance. Plus, I would have almost no time to enjoy all the money that I presumably would be making for working that many hours.