“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 and 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 it here, it’s a very common, accepted choice – 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 staff to take a break, and that they don’t have to be at their computer 9-5. It’s good but it comes with a downside: I work with ambitious women who still have a hard time getting everything done the way they want, especially in lockdown. Women set themselves high standards because of external pressures, 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 have a pay gap, and a man who works for four days with his one “father’s day” off is a hero, but the mum who has a “mother’s day” is not cool. What is great is that people here often cycle to and from work. It’s part of the culture, and I think it’s something people across the world could benefit from doing.
Work-life balance is something you can definitely improve. You just need to pay attention to it and be willing to make changes. It’s about managing your own time.