“When you have balance in your life, work becomes an entirely different experience. There is a passion that moves you to a whole new level of fulfillment and gratitude, and that’s when you can do your best… for yourself and for others.”
Mateo asks: My life is out of whack, and my boss seems oblivious about it. Should I just suck it up and keep plugging along, or find a way to deal with the problem?
Joel answers: Join the club. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the American Sociological Review, 7 of 10 workers in America are struggling to find work/life balance. The importance of helping them achieve it cannot be overestimated.
We might take a lesson from Europe—less than 15% of workers in Denmark and Belgium work over 40 hours per week, whereas in the U.S., it’s 70%, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. It’s no wonder that U.S. workers suffer from so much overwhelm and burnout.
This kind of imbalance might be par for the course, but you shouldn’t accept it. If you do, no one wins—not your company, and certainly not you.
Symptoms of Imbalance
By educating yourself on the symptoms of imbalance, you’ll be prepared to explain to your boss how important work/life balance is to the company as well as your career. You might be experiencing these symptoms:
- Feeling preoccupied with work while at home, and unable to really feel present with your loved ones.
- Inability to do your best work. It’s hard to think creatively when you’re overwhelmed and overworked.
- A skyrocketing level of stress, and accompanying physical and mental systems like depression, tension in the body, or health problems.
- Lack of time to reflect on career goals and personal milestones, or plan for the future.
- Inability to fully enjoy your personal time or relax while at home.
- Lack of satisfaction with your job, which may be coupled with a sense of resentment.
Steps Toward Finding Balance
Remember, you need to be your own greatest advocate in achieving balance. Here’s how to begin.
- Set reasonable goals. The saying “Shoot for the moon—even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” ignores how we actually feel when we don’t achieve that overly ambitious goal—or when we work overtime every night trying to get there. Set goals that stretch your abilities but aren’t unreachable.
- Communicate your needs. This may mean being more selective about projects you take on.
- Set strict hours. Vow not to work outside of particular hours anymore, and follow through.
- Find something that is calming to you, whether it’s a breathing exercise or taking a walk, and do it when you feel super stressed. You’ll work more efficiently when you’re thinking clearly.
- Make time just for you. To reflect on your goals, career trajectory, and other important life plans, you need quiet time to hear your own thoughts. Do something that gets the juices flowing, whether it’s journaling or going for a hike.
- Use your vacation time. It exists for a reason.
Helping Employees Find Balance
If you supervise others, help them find work/life balance. Make it part of company culture by checking in on them, asking if they’re feeling swamped or overwhelmed. Here are a few options your company could implement to foster work/life balance:
- Fair parental leave policies.
- Flexible working hours, or the option to telecommute.
- Workshops on stress reduction and time management.
- On-site childcare.
- Eldercare support (which may consist of a caregiver leave policy and/or support in finding caregiver resources).
You’re probably not the only one in your office experiencing these issues. One subtle way to shift the culture is to ask coworkers what they do to achieve work/life balance. They might be caught off guard, but it opens the conversation and positions work/life balance as a priority. Remember, work/life balance is hugely important to everyone, whether they’re thinking about it or not. Get the conversation started, and you’ll be doing everyone a favor.
Contact Joel for his Executive Coaching Services so you can immediately begin improving your work/life balance before it’s too late.