Nav­i­gat­ing on­line con­nec­tions

Idealog - - CONTENT -

Those free or­ganic meals and dis­counted Ap­ple prod­ucts are re­ally noth­ing more than golden hand­cuffs beau­ti­fully dis­guised by Sil­i­con Val­ley’s savvy tech be­he­moths.

One close friend wakes at 4.45am ev­ery day to drive to the Marin bus sta­tion to make the 6am Ap­ple Shut­tle so he can get to work at 8.30am, only to do it all again in the evenings. He jus­ti­fies sit­ting through two to three hours of heav­ier-than-Auck­land traf­fic ev­ery morn­ing by say­ing he med­i­tates and plans his day ahead while on the bus, but I can think of bet­ter uses of my time and less stress­ful places to find my zen. Those free or­ganic meals and dis­counted Ap­ple prod­ucts are re­ally noth­ing more than golden hand­cuffs beau­ti­fully dis­guised by Sil­i­con Val­ley’s savvy tech be­he­moths.

The stress of not de­liv­er­ing and that con­stant “on edge” feel­ing like I was never on top of things led to burn out. And with­out the week­ends to fully re­lax, my body re­belled in protest.

I was fre­quently sick, bloated and gained weight due to the stress lev­els, sleep­less nights wor­ry­ing about work and sub-op­ti­mal lev­els of ex­er­cise. De­spite my best ef­forts of main­tain­ing some sem­blance of bal­ance, each time I re­turned home to New Zealand, my doc­tor would re­mark how much worse­off my hor­mone im­bal­ance had be­come. The in­fer­tile, mid­dle class cor­po­rate woman syn­drome ring­ing alarm bells in my ears.

One friend joked to me that Amer­i­cans think they are hav­ing a hol­i­day when they take a three­day week­end. She might be right. Aside from a few to­ken days off tacked onto work-re­lated trips, most peo­ple I knew hadn’t taken a proper hol­i­day in years. I cer­tainly didn’t while liv­ing there. While some com­pa­nies like Net­flix, Drop­box and LinkedIn pride them­selves on their un­lim­ited an­nual leave poli­cies, in re­al­ity very few of their em­ploy­ees take these sim­ply be­cause they have too much work to do. They also fear that if they are gone too long, they won’t have a job to come back to. In New Zealand, this lack of bal­ance re­ally doesn’t seem to ex­ist.

To top it off, the Bay Area’s out of con­trol hous­ing mar­ket, which has re­cently been dubbed the “rental apoc­a­lypse”, means even if you are lucky enough to live and work in Sil­i­con Val­ley, a per­versely dis­pro­por­tion­ate per­cent­age of your in­come is spent on rent­ing a home you barely get to spend any time in. Thanks to the tech boom, the me­dian rental price of a one-bed­room apart­ment in San Fran­cisco is now around NZ$5,000 a month. Even a ba­sic room in a flat share with around ten oth­ers will cost up­wards of NZ$2,800 a month. An in­de­pen­dent, multi-bed­room dwelling will cost you up to $10,000 to $12,000, a sin­gle fig­ured in­come (pre-tax) to cover rent alone.

Even well-paid se­nior en­gi­neers, who earn on av­er­age close to US$200,000 an­nu­ally, spend be­tween 40 per­cent and 50 per­cent of their salary rent­ing an apart­ment close to their work. Last year, Face­book’s en­gi­neers re­port­edly asked founder Mark Zucker­berg if the com­pany could pro­vide rent sub­si­dies to make liv­ing more af­ford­able.

De­spite all this, there is still a lot to love about Sil­i­con Val­ley, and I will al­ways love the place dearly. But be­ing so blinded by the beauty of the Golden Gate and the lure of the Val­ley, I didn’t quite re­alise just how fun­da­men­tal my New Zealand sup­port net­works and more bal­anced lifestyle were to my hap­pi­ness and health. Sure, we might not earn as much money as in other coun­tries, it can seem stuffy and small at times, some of us have to work in­sane hours at times, and Auck­land’s hous­ing mar­ket is be­yond cri­sis point. But as a whole, New Zealand has man­aged to achieve an en­vi­ous work-life bal­ance that most of the world – es­pe­cially Sil­i­con Val­ley – could only dream of.

Next time you’re think­ing New Zealand doesn’t quite cut it, per­haps stop for a mo­ment and think about the mere two weeks off over Christ­mas you’d be get­ting in the States while work­ing like a dog for the re­main­ing 50. Then just think about what a great place New Zealand is to work, live and be happy.

That said, would I go back? Yes, in a heart­beat. The pull of Sil­i­con Val­ley is get­ting to me al­ready.

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