Seventy percent of working adults say they don’t have a healthy balance between their work life and their personal life. (TrueCareers 2002).
What is work life balance?
Work life balance is a personally defined approach to managing your priorities that allows you to co-ordinate multiple competing personal and professional commitments and results in physical and emotional well-being. Work life balance is affected by your stage in life: from student to your first job to family life. Work life balance is not only for people with families;it is as important for a single person as it is for a retiree.
Being chronically out of balance – either at work or at home – can leave you feeling exhausted, cynical, and out of control of your own life. The idea of control is a crucial aspect of health and well-being when discussing work life balance. When you manage your time in such a way that you are able to work, relax, spend time with friends, play a game of golf, or read to your children, you have a sense of control over your life and are less likely to feel angry, anxious, and guilty that you should be doing something else.
Your sense that something is missing in your quality of life may be the first indication that you need to divide your time more equitably.
Before you being your work life balance journey it might be helpful for you to describe what work life balance means to you. It is also important to identify if there are any obstacles in your way: perhaps an employer, or a profession, or you are unclear on how you are actually spending your time.
Once you have an idea of what you what to achieve and the obstacles you need to overcome, here are some ways to put it into practice.
- Ask your employer for a more flexible work schedule. Sometimes arriving or leaving work a half hour earlier or later can make a huge difference in your qualify of life. Offer to make up the time or take a reduction in pay. If you have an employer who is completely rigid, you might want to look for a new employer where work life balance is company policy.
- Job sharing is another flexible work option that might just work for you, especially if you have small children and don’t want to work full-time. After parental leave some parents negotiate the sharing of one job with another parent in a similar situation.
- Be organized. When you are organized at home and at work you will save yourself time and aggravation. Knowing where your keys are or being able to find that important file with your medical information will give you a sense of control and free up time better spent on more important things.
- Maintain clear boundaries between your work life and your personal life. Turn off the cell phone, stop checking your email, and create some space where you can actually have a life outside of work. If you have a home office, the simple act of closing your office door sets up a physical boundary between your work space and the rest of your home. Very few of us have work life that actually requires us to be connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Take a disciplined approach. When you are at work do you best to focus on the task at hand and when you are at home focus on your home life. Say no when your mind drifts to a problem at the office when you are listening to your partner describe their day or when you are going for a walk.
- Block off time that is sacrosanct and don’t trifle with it. Perhaps you would like Friday evenings to be spent relaxing with your family. Be bold and schedule that time in ink! Don’t let anything interfere with this time. Leave a message on your mobile phone and office phone telling people you are spending time with your family and let them know when you will be checking messages and returning phone calls.
It is important to remember that while you are striving for balance, life happens. Work life balance is like a teeter-totter – it is up and down. You may need to take care of a sick parent, or return to university while you still have young children, or perhaps you are starting a new business. You know that for a certain period of time things are not going to be as balanced as you would like. Find support through family and friends knowing that you will find the balance when you can.