Finding a Work-Life Balance
I took a 30 day blogging challenge on Thursday. I wrote my first blog on Friday and today is Monday when I’m writing day two. Today I was thinking, should I have worked over the weekend? Then I thought about how awesome my weekend was. I spent time watching my kids play soccer, attended a BBQ and spent time with some girlfriends. Do you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t check or send any emails. I didn’t write any blog posts for my business. In fact,I didn’t think about work or my business in regards to schedules, deadlines or plans. At all. Do you know what else I didn’t do? Feel guilty.
I’d like to point out that not everyone has this luxury. There are many people who work multiple jobs and insanely long hours in an effort to pay the bills and keep food on the table. I also know there are times in worklife where deadlines need to be met and it’s our responsibility to ensure everything is completed regardless of the day or time. We also cannot forget, that for some, their job is life or death for others.
Let’s just say for the sake of discussion that you don’t fall into any of the three aforementioned categories. If your job is interfering with your life in any of the following ways, you might want to assess how you approach a work-life balance:
Do your close family and friends comment about how much you work?
Do you feel like you are always working even while you aren’t at work? As if there is no break and your work is following you home.
Do you have a problem with being present in your personal life because you’re thinking about work or constantly checking in with your job by phone, text or email?
Are you starting to resent your job because it seems as though it’s taken over?
Are you experiencing burnout?
I’d like to say that I’ve always found a work-life balance but that would be a humongous lie. I used to be that person working when I should have been enjoying life. My phone would beep and I thought I had to check and answer emails at all times of the day and night. I learned from a great manager who set exemplary boundaries between life and work. Not only did she set them for herself but she encouraged those working with her to do the same. It was more than that though, she didn’t overstep our boundaries. Ever. This gave us the freedom to set rules for our work-life balance and then stick to them without fear of punishment. That’s not to say I set boundaries and then follow them to a T all the time. I’m a work in progress for sure.
There are some people who are great at creating balance between their work and home life. Those people do the following 4 things well:
1. They lead by example regardless if they are an employee, manager, leader or business owner. They set boundaries for themselves and encourage those working around them to do the same. They’re respectful of others’ boundaries and appreciative when theirs are adhered to. Two of the best examples I have seen of this recently are the rules set out in France regarding company phone use and former Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden’s memo to staff about family obligations.
2. They engage in expectation management. They set expectations clearly and early. They let staff know what the expectations of work hours are during the hiring process. If someone knows they are required to work X amount of hours, X amount of days with the addition of X amount of overtime, then people can make an informed decision as to whether that is the job for them. For example, if I know I have to work 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday with the expectation that I will need to work 10 hour days during product roll-out, then I can plan around that. I know of someone who is required to work for as long as needed when specific deadlines are required to be met but that was laid out when they were hired. It’s never a surprise. That is the job they signed up for and they are okay with that.
For those who are in a position to follow expectations as opposed set them, they who find balance by learning what the expectations are. When applying for a job they ask what is expected of them. If they have been working at the same place for a long time, they follow-up about changes in expectations. Two good question to ask yourself are, “If I’m not expected to work on my days off, why am I?” “If I am working on my days off, why aren’t I being compensated?” It seems fair that we should be paid for the work we do!
3. Successful boundary setters communicate effectively. When things change they communicate it to those around them. As an employee, they tell the people around them what their work-life boundaries are. They do this with their voicemail settings, out of office replies, office hours and inter office emails. As a parent, partner, child or friend they tell those they spend time with they’re expecting a call or are working extra hours ahead of time. They use family calendars in the home or share info on phone apps. Most people are understanding when communication is consistent and clear. Constant interruption, regularly bailing on loved ones or telling people things at the last minute is not only inconvenient but becomes frustrating, annoying and disappointing.
4. These people also leave their work at work. They are present at home and with those they love. Now doing this can be a challenge when you have a stressful job, especially when one is left thinking about troubling situations that took place at work. As a result, I have listed a few things that can help us all to transition from work to home.
A. Make a list at work that is left on your desk or calendar with tasks for completion when you return the next day. People often worry they’re going to forget to do something later or the next day and ruminate about it at home.
B. Plan to do a task between work and home. Many people report running an errand on the way home helps to disengage from work and prepare to go home. This might be grabbing some groceries, getting gas, going to the gym, etc.
C. Change out of your work clothes when you get home. For some this is a necessity as they wear a uniform or the clothing is professional, uncomfortable or dirty. Regardless, changing out of “work” clothing helps us transition from work to home.
E. Having a post-work routine can also help. Some people get home and listen to music, have a shower, have a cup of tea/coffee/cold beverage, take a nap or watch the news. This is a cue to others that you are unwinding from work. It can be tough when couples feel like passing ships in the night or when you have young children but it’s possible.
F. Check-in with a partner, friend or family member. Asking someone how their day was and letting them vent for a few minutes without judgement or advice can be cathartic. It can also become a post-work routine. This isn’t meant to be a constant complaint session as this would get burdensome in a relationship. However, it can alert those around you of a rough day at work and can signal a need for space or extra compassion and love. Don’t forget to share the great and exciting things about your job, too, as it’s good for both you and the listener to hear.
By no means am I exemplary in finding this balance, yet, but I can say that with an attempt to keep my home and work life separate, I have found more personal happiness. In the end, as I step away from my job after work and on my days off, I have the chance to decompress. Feeling refreshed, rested and personally connected, I am better at my job and ready to face the challenges of another work week. It’s hard to give of yourself when you feel depleted and overwhelmed so I’m working on making a conscious effort to set boundaries, stick to them and respect the boundaries of others. A healthier and happier you is a more productive employee and/or boss. Win, win!