The Art of Work-Life Balance

November 2018

by anna rogers

Things aren’t as they’ve always been in the workplace. The same technology that makes it easy to ping a co-worker with a question on a job also leaves us ever-connected, always “on.” It’s harder than ever to separate work from the rest of our lives – our friends and families, hobbies, and even our vacations. The idea of being “unplugged,” while it sounds whimsical and peaceful, can also leave us anxious about the things that could go wrong while we’re not tuned-in.

And let’s be honest, technology is only one facet of our struggle to find work-life balance. Before the idea of unplugging from our devices even existed, it was still a challenge to leave the problems and mistakes of our workdays out of our dinner conversations and disconnected from our emotions.

But don’t be fooled! The art of work-life balance doesn’t involve zero crossover between our areas of interest. In fact, true work-life balance comes from finding a healthy level of crossover that is mutually beneficial to all aspects of our lives.

Our careers take up a lot of our time, and therefore shape our ideas and broaden our learning. They push us to problem-solve and build strong relationships with our co-workers. These positive aspects of our jobs should be talked about and celebrated, even outside of the office. One piece to the balanced work-life pie is sharing about your day at work with friends and family. It’s a healthy way to deepen relationships and an excellent way to bounce ideas off of others. Positive conversations about our workdays can also lend perspective when we’re feeling perplexed or frustrated.

Likewise, sharing about our family, friends, and interests with our co-workers creates stronger bonds and builds trust among teams who work together on the good, the bad, and the ugly. These bonds yield things like friendly joking to cheer one another up while in the trenches on a challenging project and help us recognize that we're all human and must work together to have the greatest impact in our efforts.

Unfortunately, too much cross-over, or negative cross-over, can tip the scales of work-life balance and end in disaster. If we only talk and think about life outside of work while on the job, we’ll be unproductive. If we only talk about work at home, our families may feel disconnected, or quite possibly, just annoyed. If we come home and spend our entire dinners complaining about our days, we sabotage our time to decompress and gain perspective. And if we can’t stop checking our email while out with friends, we risk shallow and short-lived relationships.

So what are some ways that we can practice the art of work-life balance and enjoy more productivity in the office and beyond? Here are a few suggestions:

Set & Respect Boundaries

A healthy work-life balance looks different for different people. Take some time to decide what kind of balance leaves you feeling energized and rested, and put simple things in place to create the right environment. That may mean a gym break at lunch, even if it’s only 15 minutes, or a quick walk outside to recharge after finishing up a daunting task. It may mean turning your phone off while out at dinner with friends, or while reading your kids bedtime stories. Do what works for you, and stick to it.

By the same token, respect the boundaries of others. Don’t force your significant other to tell you about their day if they’re reluctant. It may be that they need some time to process and don’t want to just complain about a hard day on the job. Give them some space, and do the same for a co-worker who prefers being more private about their personal life.

Understand Your Goals

Evaluate how your personal and career goals overlap and intertwine. Be able to recognize when you’re off-track and take some measures to change direction. Be open with managers about your goals within the company so that they can guide you toward reaching these goals, and share them with those close to you so that they can encourage you in your endeavors and be more understanding if it means a longer shift than usual.

Remember that Balance Breeds Productivity

Remember – balance does not mean being lazy! In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If we can achieve an ideal work-life balance, we will look back on our days and feel that our time at work and at home was productive and fruitful. This doesn’t mean the days will always be easy, but our attitude will be one that rolls with the punches, faces challenges head-on, and gives others the best version of ourselves.

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s November 2018 issue.

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