What is work-life balance? There is no magic number for hours of exercise or time spent with children that will combat the stress from a busy day at the office. There is no ratio for time spent at home versus time spent at the office that equates to happiness. The right balance varies from employee to employee. Some people can handle 60 hour work weeks with ease, others find the idea repulsive.
As companies become more innovative, the idea of work-life balance changes as well:
- The idea that the more hours you log at the office being positively related to your productivity is becoming dated. Employees are now reporting record-high rates of work stress. Stressed workers are more likely to suffer from poor memory, lower quality of work and bad time management. All of this directly has a negative effect on productivity.
- Companies like Netflix and IBM are getting creative with schedules by giving employees unlimited vacation time and the choice to work from home when they want.
- The overwhelming response to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article Why Women Still Can’t Have it All has sparked a nation-wide debate about the friction many professional women face in deciding between a career and motherhood. Companies like Google are now extending their maternity leave to make it easier for women who want a fulfilling career and family life.
With all the changes in how companies are attempting to address work-life balance, it can be easy to overlook that much of the responsibility falls on the individual. Even a perfect work environment does not guarantee stress-free employees. Since it is such an individual undertaking, how can employees strike the work-life balance that works for them?
- Determine what you will not give up for a job under any circumstance and hold yourself to it. Is the most important part of your week eating dinner with your family? Do not take a job where people routinely work past 6 p.m. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook does it! Do you take a European vacation with your spouse each year? Discuss this with your boss and see if an agreement can be reached for your vacation time. Compromising on the aspects of life that make us happiest is a bad way to start off any plan to improve balance in life.
- Know exactly what your job is and what is expected of you. Constantly guessing at what your boss wants is stressful. (Employers: See how ProfilesXT can help you select employees that will best fit your open job description).
- Spend time on a hobby regularly. If you do not have one, find one. Not only will it make you happy, but hobbies make great conversation starters during lunch with colleagues.
- Schedule time to spend with friends. It has been proven over and over again that relationships are a large part of our happiness. Meaningful friendships will not just happen, especially when balancing a career, family and hobbies. Call your friends. Figure out dates that work for a lunch or movie. Put it in your Outlook calendar. Treat it like you would treat a work appointment.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! Did we mention you should exercise? Besides the fact that exercise is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle, it will feel good to push yourself physically after so much “mental pushing” at work.
Work-life balance does not come naturally, it will take work. Seems ironic, but it is worth the effort!