Regularly glossy business magazines and newspapers focus on the CEO or senior corporate executive who has decided to take a year or so off in their middle age. These profiles are often accompanied by an image of the executive casually dressed standing in the shallows of a beach on a sunny day.
The glossy profiles are annoying because they promote the idea that one must work excessively long hours and amass considerable wealth before stopping suddenly for a period of time, rather than promoting a balanced approach to workload and career that allows for adequate leisure. Good OHS management would advocate adequate leave throughout one’s working life to allow for a reduced risk of health problems, to minimise stress and to allow for a good amount of family time.
Too often high-profile corporate managers, and particularly politicians, need to resign to “spend more time with the family” – that’s if kids recognise them and the family dog doesn’t attack the intruder. The phrase quoted above is quickly becoming PR shorthand to cover a large range of matters.
In the Australian Financial Review on 21 August 2008, it was reported that the Asia Pacific CEO of Goodman Group, David van Aanholt, is taking a six-month sabbatical “to spend more time with his family”. This could be corporate spin but taking it as meant, Mr van Aanholt should be congratulated for sacrificing some corporate time for the benefit of the bigger picture. The article says that he intends to return to the company because of the long and strong relationship he has with the company and its founder.
Barbara Pocock, in “the Work/Life Collision” discusses a possible option of taking a pay rise in time rather than money, sort of a non-monetary salary sacrifice. She says that this concept has not taken off in the US, where it was first proposed, but felt it could work in Australia. Of course this requires the quantum leap in understanding the OHS benefits of regular leave and sensible workload expectations.