Finally, An Effective Way To Measure Your Quality Of Life At Work

You're faced with a new and potentially fantastic job opportunity. Should you stay or should you go? With this simple formula, here's some big help in making the biggest decision of your career.

How do you decide between a job you love and an exciting new opportunity to supercharge your career?

That's the choice I was faced with when deciding to leave Semphonic (acquired by Ernst & Young in March) to join independent data and analytics firm Cardinal Path.

On the surface, it's easy to point to the larger company environment and the acquisition and say it was a logical move for someone looking for a more entrepreneurial challenge.

Yet, it was actually a very tough decision. No employer is perfect, and I know this, having been one myself. So what if we could measure quality of life against any employer? Here's how I would, and did, measure it before making the call.

Time

Quality of life at work is heavily correlated to time. We are all such Bisy Backsons--so busy, busy, busy. As Americans we wear the number of hours we work in a week like a badge of honor.

So often we overhear "Oh, I worked 60 hours last week." "I'm so tired." "Yeah, I worked all day Sunday and part of Saturday too." The statistics on this subject point out that we're not really working more, we're just bit-shoveling, mouse-moving zombies. See this story at Inc. on "Why Working More than 40 Hours a Week is Useless."

At the beginning of the year, I made a resolution to focus on quality work time. When I spend 40 hours, I want it to be 40 quality hours moving businesses forward, delivering work, checking in with my team, and taking a few breaths to think, "What else could we do and what's new in the field?"

It's just enough to spark product innovation and creativity, which is the fun part of our work. So in measuring quality of life against an employer, I look at how much time it takes to do a job I feel good about.

In my "Corporate Quality of Life Measurement Framework," I measure time as a ratio between busy hours versus quality work hours. If that's confusing, think of it as things you need or like to do, versus things that don't make the best use of your talents and expertise.

At 100/0 you'd be fully optimized, whereas at, say, 35/65, you'd be feeling like 65% of your time was spent doing things you felt had little value.

Adaptability

A big ship, with all its power and luxury, is still hard to turn. Back in my startup days, the ability to move faster than the big guys was often our sole method of survival. Fewer contractual issues, fewer approval processes, eye-opening innovations, and blinding speed. Exciting and addictive, the ability to move at speed with an industry is critical to digital intelligence.

Understanding this about myself made the jump to a smaller, more nimble organization seem like a no-brainer, and it ended up being the right choice for me. But first, I did the math on whether the opportunity would really deliver on what I love most: the ability to innovate and go.

Within my Corporate Quality of Life Measurement Framework, I measure the ability to adapt as a ratio between existing in-house technology versus current industry technology. I use 1 for current year tech and increment +1 for every year of catch-up needed to be current. I then tack it to a general 1-10 scale, where a 1 means an organization is at the leading edge and 10 indicates the least ability to adapt.

Run the numbers for your particular situation to determine whether high organizational adaptability is, or can be, in your future.

Alignment

Companies are like people: They all have specific goals and motivations. Sometimes those are aligned and other times they are not. The trick is to sort out the minor stuff from the major stuff because, remember, it's rare to have a 100% fit with a company, a friend or a spouse. (If you do, wow--pat yourself on the back.)

To measure alignment, list all your cons about working for the company and then plot the density of the items on a scatterplot as follows:

The x-axis would be how much you care about it (left = not much, right = a lot). The y-axis would be how frequently the issue comes up (low = not much, high = a lot).

Then divide your chart into four equal parts and label:

  • Meh: Items in the lower left corner probably didn't even make your list. These are things that do not happen often and you don't care much about them.
  • Annoying: Items in the upper left corner probably did appear. These are annoyances that probably occur more frequently, but you don't care about them as much as other items.
  • Accommodations: Items in the lower right are accommodations you may be willing to make. These are things you care about, but they do not happen that often, so they could be things you could live with.
  • Gotchas: Items in the top right are the real deal breakers. These are items you care a lot about and they happen pretty frequently.

Note the density of the dots. If you have a lot of left-leaning items, maybe you could make some small changes to get over it. If you have a lot of right leaning items, you need to think seriously about whether your personal goals are heading in the same direction as the company.

Deciding whether to leave your company or stay should never be a flip decision. It can be difficult to sort out the larger issues from the minor annoyances but using metrics allowed me to clarify my view and make the right call.

--Allison Hartsoe is Group Director, Digital Intelligence at Cardinal Path, a web analytics services company based in Tempe, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter at @ahartsoe.

[Image: Flickr user The Integer Club]

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2 Comments

  • Joe Camareno

    Fantastic article, Allison. I can also apply your formula to other aspects of my life, not just work. Thanks for the insight and best to you on your new position!

  • CurryPRProf

    Very interesting discussion, Allison. And I love the fact that you've delineated the "assessment factors" for weighing current-versus-potential job opportunities. So many people don't consider that important aspect...and they wind up miserable in a new position. Sometimes that "awful" previous job doesn't look so grim! Great info for my young charges at Curry College!