The Work-Life Balance Challenge

Over the last few months, I’ve had plenty of friends and family get on my case about my work-life balance. As always, they’ll ask me what’s new in life and I’ll go off on a tangent, telling them all the different things I’ve been involved in or what I’m currently learning. Once I catch my breath and the glazed-over look leaves their eyes, they feel the need to express their concern for my work-life balance. “You need to give yourself a mental break,” my family will say. “You need to get out and have a life,” my friends will add. Of course, this annoys me to no end. It might seem like I’ve dedicated my whole existence to work or networking or blogging or whatever else to help my career, but such is not the case. What they don’t realize is that I can accomplish all of these things easily in a 40-45 hour work week. Therefore, the balance is fine- I’ve just learned how to make the most out of my time.

No, I’m not a superhuman by any means. I’m just a woman with a type A personality and a slight obsession with whiteboard calendars. My whiteboards and my intense scheduling skills are another thing that my friends and family feel the need to critique but these things are what help me accomplish as much as I do within a reasonable time. Maybe not everyone is great at working their lives around a schedule, but here are the things that help me:

  • Determine necessary time for each task: Take a couple weeks to determine the appropriate time each task takes you to do. This can help you regulate how much time you would need to block off.
  • Schedule accordingly: every person has their favorite way to schedule things, such as phone task apps, email calendars, and so on. Although I use those forms of technology, I still like to keep it old school. Writing it down and seeing it in front of my face each day can help reduce any anxiety about potentially forgetting something. It also keeps me on track. I literally have three whiteboards: monthly, weekly, and daily.
  • Set realistic goals: the reason why I put things on a schedule is because it automatically makes it feel like a goal that I need to achieve. Nothing motivates me more than seeing all my “to dos” crossed off on my list. It also makes me feel like I’m making steady progress.
  • Give yourself wiggle room: I usually set my to-dos to be completed at least a couple days in advance. I also try to give myself a few minutes in between each task. Life is crazy and you never know what can happen that could potentially knock you back a bit. Giving yourself some wiggle room can help you still accomplish your things on time without stressing, even if an unexpected situation occurs.

Maybe some of my friends and family don’t get it at this point in time but doing these things have honestly allowed me to progress in my career, professional development, and professional education. I spend less time running around clueless and more time getting things done. And like I said earlier, it might seem like I have a lot going on but setting up my days like this have truly allowed me to be the most efficient that I can possibly be. I work hard but I get things done within the 40-45 hours a week which allows me to have plenty of time to “relax” and “live a little” like I’ve been advised to do. Take these tips and test it out. See if it makes a difference in your life, whether it is for work or your own personal goals.

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Maintaining the Work-Life Balance

Have you ever worked late or on the weekends? Have you incessantly checked your phone and emails while relaxing or involved in social events? Have work-related thoughts clouded your mind and disrupted your attention outside of work? Have you stopped a conversation with a friend or family member to take a call? I know I’m definitely guilty of all of these (sometimes even simultaneously). As technology becomes more widely and regularly used, this has become a common issue in the daily lives of the employed.

Overworking yourself can actually make you LESS productive at work than taking a break to breathe and rest your mind. Additionally, it can seep into your personal life, causing issues. So how can you keep your balance? Check it out:

Set Boundaries: technology and mobile devices make it easy for you to be available non-stop. You need to set boundaries. Turn your phone on silent outside of work. Only check your emails/voicemails for an hour a night after you finish your shift. Only respond to things that NEED to be responded to.

Schedule: I literally have a white board for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and to-dos. I work extremely hard to stick with that schedule. Having this schedule will make sure I don’t over-do it and actually reduce time worrying about whether or not I’m forgetting to do something. It saves a lot of brain power.

Prioritize: living in the instant gratification age could make it seem like if you don’t respond or aren’t present every second of the day that the world may end. It won’t- trust me. Deal with any fires that need to be put out. Then, prioritize whether or not something needs to be done ASAP or if it can be put on the backburner. Do this regularly to ensure you’re managing your time well.

Be realistic: we have become multitasking masters, which can sometimes make us believe we’re capable of doing the workload of 3 people all at once. It’s a nice thought but unrealistic. Sometimes you need to say no to people (do it nicely, though!) and if you do say yes to someone, make sure you set realistic timelines and expectations. Give yourself some extra time in case something more pressing comes up and cuts into your time. This can help you avoid the need to cram things in to meet a timeline you set.

Sometimes our lives make work and personal life blend too easily but you need to regularly take a step back and remind yourself that your brain needs a break. Do yourself a favor and follow the steps above and see if it makes a positive difference in your life.

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More Links:

The Quaint Notion of the Work Life Balance

Work, Life and Peace

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Are Your Employees Using their Vacation Time?

A few months ago, I had written a posting in regard to promoting a healthy-work life balance within the workplace. I went over the general idea of why it was important to promote this balance and the negative consequences that can occur if you do not create a culture that encourages that. Part of having that balance is making your employees take time off as needed, whether it is for a sick day or just a mental break to recuperate. Recently, the Director of Public Relations from Compliance and Safety, Matthew Pelletier, had reached out to me. He showed me an interesting infograph  that discussed the fact that many American workers don’t take personal and vacation time that they are awarded. This has sparked today’s blog post: are your employees using their vacation time?

This infograph showed that many workers did not take their vacation time, if they were even offered any by their employer. But if employees have this time to take for themselves, why aren’t they? Studies have concluded that there are several reasons why:

  • Fear for job stability: many employees worry about job stability in the shaky economy. They fear that their employers will see that they really don’t have a need for them.
  • Fear for their work ethic: once again, many employees are worried about how their work ethic is viewed by their employers in this economy. Many fear that if they take time off for vacation or sick time, that their employers will believe that they are not as dedicated to their work as other employees. Additionally, they fear that they will get backlash from peers for “slacking off.”
  • Lack of money: many employees do not have the disposable income they once had and therefore feel like it is a waste to take time off without having the means to actually go anywhere.
  • Backlog issues: employees worry that leaving work for a few days will cause a work backlog that can actually cause them more stress than not taking the vacation at all.
  • Workaholic syndrome: technology has bred many workaholics and have caused workers to always be accessible and working 24/7. Many employees can’t force themselves to unplug enough to enjoy a vacation.

It is important for your employees to take time, as they see fit. If they do not have this work/life balance, stress will decrease productivity and happiness; and increase sickness and absenteeism. It is more beneficial to have your employees take time off than to have them work straight through. As managers and leaders, you must set an example for your employees before negative situations occur. Take vacations yourself, promote the importance of taking time off, and encourage them to do so even if it’s a day to relax at home here or there. It will create a positive culture and workforce.

More related articles:

Why Aren’t You Taking Your Vacation Time?

Inc: Do Your Employees Skip Vacation Time? Don’t let them

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Why American’s are Afraid to take Vacation

Compliance and Safety Infograph

Does Your Employer Give You a Good Work-Life Balance?

With the economy’s downturn, companies have been forced to downsize and had to increase the workload of employees still on payroll. Technology and smart phones have also allowed employees to feel like they can’t “unplug” fully even during after-hours or on their days off. Factors like this are starting to blend people’s work and personal life into one. This issue has become highly noted among HR professionals because improper work-life balance has caused many people to become stressed, increased turn-over, and even caused employee’s work and home-life to suffer.

I have been guilty of working through lunch, taking work home with me over the weekend, late hours at the office, and working on holidays from home- all while being an hourly employee. Understandably, it sometimes is necessary when you have goals to meet, tight deadlines, or in my case, payroll that could not be put off. However, if workers continue this pattern it can start to take its toll on both the individual’s work performance and personal life. So why do we continue to do it?

Here are some of the top reasons employees provided when I asked them:

  • Fear that they will be terminated if they do not consistently display above-and-beyond hard work.
  • Feel that it is necessary to secure a spot for promotion when these roles are limited.
  • Do not want other workers to outshine them and make them seem like a bottom performer.
  • Technology and mobile devices make them feel like they need to give an instant response any time a phone call, text, or e-mail comes in.
  • They are given extra job duties to fill in for the individuals that were terminated/laid off and feel overwhelmed with work. They work long hours to try feel like they aren’t drowning.

I’ve had some of these similar feelings before in previous jobs. I also have witnessed other people going through this situation. Unfortunately, here are some of the effects that could occur if they keep working like this (I’ve witnessed it or co-workers have told me about it):

  • Strain on relationships: family, friends, children, and significant others.
  • Stress and depression due to not having time to unwind/relax.
  • Stress and depression due to not having time to do things the individual enjoys.
  • Anxiety about going to work and how much work will be waiting for them there.
  • In extreme cases: substance abuse has occurred to deal with stress.
  • In extreme cases: stress has caused individuals to do things that are uncharacteristic and self-destructive.
  • Feelings of resentment towards work, co-workers, and managers, which contributed to high absenteeism and turn-over.
  • Feelings of being overworked and unable to juggle life’s responsibilities.
  • Overwhelming feelings and stress affects work-performance and quality.

Unfortunately, some of these scenarios happen before an employee realizes that the lack of quality work-life balance is affecting them that much. If you are an employee feeling overworked, please review WebMD’s tips on finding a better work-life balance.  If you are an HR professional or manager, please be sure to pay attention to this to avoid any of the effects mentioned above. If you would like to find more information on companies that have the best work-life balance, please review the articles by CNN and Glassdoor. Your employees’ well-being is important!

Additional Links:

Work-Life Balance Worsened by Recession.

Recognizing Work-Life Balance Problems.

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