Keep your work/life balance in check this summer
Posted May 5, 2010on:
Keeping a healthy work/life balance used to be fairly straightforward: when you left the office, you weren’t working. Of course you could think about work, but without an actual connection to your office or peers, that kind of reflection can be less demanding and more creative. And that’s just for “knowledge workers” – most blue-collar work ends as soon as you walk off the line or the work site.
The increasingly common use of technology to stay in touch with the office at all times is fundamentally altering the idea of work/life balance. Many workers can continue checking their email, reading blogs and newsletters, and responding to co-workers — well into the night and on weekends.
While this does show dedication on the part of your staff, it’s not sustainable in the long run. Experts have long studied the impact of work-related stress on health and productivity, and it’s not a pretty picture. Here’s what you can do to help yourself and your employees find a better balance.
Suggestions for individuals
- Understand what’s important to you. It’s really essential to understand that the phrase “work/life balance” doesn’t imply any specific ratio. If work is the most important thing in your life, that’s fine, your balance may be slanted that way. You just have to limit your involvement in other areas.
- Use your time off. Chances are you know someone who realizes at the end of the year that they’ve hardly taken any time off. Don’t be that person: even if you don’t go anywhere exotic, force yourself to take a week away from work. Companies don’t offer vacation time simply to attract new hires: the company benefits when you return from a vacation refreshed and ready to get back to work.
- Know when you can be disconnected. Do you really need to be checking the Blackberry at night and on the weekends? Unless you have a key role in responding to emergencies, chances are you can wait til morning.
Suggestions for managers
If you’re running a department or a whole company, you can have even more responsibility when it comes to this balancing act: in addition to keeping a healthy balance for yourself, you can help your employees set their own level of balance.
- Set the right example. It’s ok if every now and then you send an email at 11 pm because an idea just occurred to you. But don’t make a habit of it: show your employees that you value your private life, and that you’re not all work all the time.
- Be flexible about work hours. Give salaried employees the benefit of the doubt when they have an errand to run or a dentist appointment, and when possible, let hourly employees adjust their schedules slightly. Small adjustments that mean little to your business can make a huge difference to your staff. The Huffington Post has a more detailed look at the importance of flexibility in today’s economy.
- Push awareness of benefits. There’s a reason expert HR teams send regular benefits reminders: employees don’t always use the perks they have. Simply being reminded that they can take advantage of volunteer time, transportation savings, or other benefits can make employees more satisfied with their jobs.
Not everyone feels the same way. Legendary ex-GE CEO Jack Welch told a conference last year that “there’s no such thing as work-life balance,” specifically when it comes to women raising families. Not surprisingly, his comments didn’t go over well with many professionals, both women and men.
And working mothers know they face the biggest challenge in balancing careers and family life – these moms admit it’s a problem, but just can’t find the time to strike the balance they want.
Whether you’re balancing family responsibilities or dealing with a company culture that values a 70 hour work week, you may have some work ahead of you to find the right balance — but it’s worth it to avoid the long term dangers to your health. Share your tips below.
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