Marie Claire Australia
“I’ve never worked more than four days a week”
THE NETHERLANDS HAS THE WORLD’S BEST WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Susanne Maris, 41, lives in The Hague with her husband and two children. She is a psychologist who runs a training company for academics.
“I’ve never officially worked more than four days a week, even when I was single and didn’t have kids. You don’t have to fight for the right to work a four-day week at all; it’s a very common, accepted choice that helps people have more of a work-life balance. Although, of course, many women can end up still working unpaid outside of those hours. Companies I work with encourage employees to have a work-life balance, and it’s often managers telling employees to take a break, and that they don’t have to be at their computer 9-5. This is good, but it does come with a downside: I work with ambitious women who still have a hard time getting everything done the way they want it to be done. Women set high standards for themselves and feel they need to give it their best every time. But compared to countries like the UK, I think we still have it better. We have a decent maternity leave system and most companies I work with often say things to employees like, ‘Just see what you can get done, we know you have kids.’ Unfortunately we’re still far away from true equality between men and women – we still have a pay gap. That’s something I hope to see change. Work-life balance is something you can definitely improve. You just need to pay attention to it and be willing to make changes, even if it’s cycling to work or going for a walk in the afternoon. It’s about managing your own time.”