No matter if you’re a CEO, a freelancer, or a regular 9-to-5er, everyone has to work. That being said, not many people like to work. They may like the money they get in exchange for their time or the satisfaction of a job well done, but work is work and that’s why we’re paid to do it.
While some people are lucky enough to have a job that is related to their passions, most people have jobs that have little to do with what they actually enjoy. That’s life, but, as technology makes it easier to stay in touch outside of work hours, the line between work and life can start to become a little blurry. We used to be able to get away from the people who drive us crazy at work, but now that everyone is a ping away, you may find yourself permanently on-call from one of your least favorite co-workers.
Is Work Life Balance Important?
Every individual needs time to re-cooperate from the effort of working, no matter what that work is. When a worker isn’t given this time, or if their “free time” is frequently interrupted with serious/seriously frivolous work communications, then they won’t be able to re-cooperate from the stress of working.
While you are free to work your employees as hard as you like, failing to give employees enough re-coop time will lead to burn-out, resentment and increased turn-over.
Over-all, companies today aren’t providing their employees with the flexibility that they want. According to the Workplace Trends 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study:
- 50% of employers ranked workplace flexibility as the most important benefit they believe their employees desire, compared to 75% of employees who ranked it as their top benefit.
- 67% of HR professionals think that their employees have a balanced work-life, yet almost half (45%) of employeesfeel that they don’t have enough time each week to do personal activities.
- One in five employees surveyed spent over 20 hours working outside of the office on their personal time per week – a clear indicator of suboptimal work-life balance.
Given the fact that 75% of employees list flexibility as their most desired/important workplace benefit, employers need to wake up and smell the time-off reqs. According to the same study:
“The top benefits organizations saw in their work flex programs were improved employee satisfaction (87%), increased productivity (71%), and that they retained current talent (65%). 69% use their programs as a recruiting tool and 54% said that their programs positively impacted their recruiting.”
It’s important for employers to facilitate a healthy work life balance, but getting a healthy work-life balance is as much on the individual as it is on the organization. If you are miss-spending your time, it is just as detrimental to your work/life balance as having no free time at all.
In order to have a healthy work/life balance, employees need the flexibility to balance . At the same time, every individual is responsible for their own work/life balance and everyone needs to take steps to achieve this goal of centered, sustainable working.
4 Ways to Ruin your Work Life Balance
You Don’t Plan Enough
Do you find yourself at a loss when asked, “Hey! What did you do this weekend?”
If so, you may not be planning enough fun for yourself outside of work hours. When you don’t plan how you will spend your time outside of work, then you can end up just watching TV, browsing Facebook and/or gaming your way through the weekend.
While “doing nothing” feels great after a long week of work or some intense exercise, this should not be the only way that you spend your free time. With the amount of time we spend staring at screens at work, separating from technological distractions is crucial to maintaining a healthy work/life balance. No matter what your interests are, you need to plan the time necessary to get out and do the things that keep you sane.
Whether that’s a camping trip with your family, a weekend in Vegas or a trip to your local comic book store, having fun plans on the weekend will keep your free time more structured and ensure that you don’t fall into any home-body patterns. It will also give you something to look forward to during the week!
Planning is also crucial on the work side of a healthy work/life balance. Poor planning will lead to mountains of work that will keep “sneaking up on you,” until you start planning your workday more effectively.
Start Planning! While you are free to keep watching TV or playing Call of Duty in every free minute of your life, this sort of routine will lead to boredom and isn’t very good at relieving the stress that accumulates throughout the work week.
Down time is crucial to work/life balance, but failing to plan fun, memorable activities for yourself will, eventually, leave you stuck in a rut. You don’t have to go for an outing every weekend, but planning fun things to do on a consistent basis will keep you motivated and give you something to talk about around the coffee pot.
You Plan Too Much
On the flip side from our last work/life balance disruptor, is the tendency to plan too much in your free time. Whether you’re spending too much time thinking about what to do or you’re just agreeing to too many lunch invitations, having too many obligations will have you chasing your tail before you know it.
In order to fully recover from the stresses of the work week, you need some time to rest. If you don’t make that time for yourself to relax, or see it as unnecessary, then there will come a day when you are simply out of energy. If this crash day happens when you have concert tickets, you can be incapable of having all of the fun you were planning to have. Worse yet, if this crash day is during the work week, you can find yourself falling short in a serious way.
Another challenge comes when working for a company with a, “work hard, play hard” culture. If you end up socializing with the same people who you work with most days of the week, it can be hard to separate work from life. If you find yourself in this situation, remember to plan some time for yourself to rest in the midst of everything else you’re adding to your schedule.
Be mindful of how much time you actually have. Having an active social life around or outside of work is a great way to blow off steam, but just be sure that you aren’t burning the candle at both ends. Start being more selective about the invitations that you accept
If your after-work adventures start to affect your on-the-job performance, then it’s time to reign it in. Though you may enjoy your social life more than your working life, work still needs to come first. You won’t be able to get away with this sort of thing forever and, before long, your over-active lifestyle will take its toll and you will slip up.
You Don’t Have Time
If you don’t have time, you don’t have time. An important point: having no time is not the same as miss-spending your time. Having no time means that your workload is consistently exceeding your abilities and you cannot complete all of your work without completing it on your own time.
There are only so many hours in the day and sacrificing sleep can only get you by for so long. Eventually, if you don’t get the time to recover, a schedule of constant work followed by constant mobile communication from work will cause you to experience fatigue, decreased performance and even complete burn-out.
Mobile technology has put many professionals on a permanent on-call basis and according to the workplace flexibility study, “the majority of workers–65% of employees say that their manager expects them to be reachable outside of the office.” When these work communications are frequent and/or serious in nature, it can make your personal and working life indistinguishable.
Everyone has their limit, and you don’t want to discover yours the night before the biggest presentation of your career. If you don’t have time due to your workload, your workplace conditions, the people you’re working with or the tools you’re working with, then you need to let someone know. Suffering in silence won’t do you any good, especially if you find yourself falling short, and letting a sympathetic superior know about it will show that you are serious about getting the job done.
Before you seek help in adjusting your workload or other workplace arrangements, make a chart of your weekly schedule, hour by hour. Then, as the week starts, plot how much time is actually spent on each item in your agenda. This will show you which tasks/activities are taking longer than they should. This will also help you identify things that can be sacrificed to free up more time for work, if necessary.
After mapping out the way your time is spent and concluding that your workload is unrealistic for most anyone, then you should seek help from a sympathetic superior. Showing them how much of your time is eaten up by outdated technology or the co-worker you’re always having to help will help to prove your case and get your working life on an even keel.
And, for all you managers out there, listen to your employees when they come to you with this! Overworking employees always leads to higher turnover, especially when you don’t offer any flexibility. Crunch time is crunch time, but when your employees never have enough time to finish their work, then some changes need to be made to the way that work is done.
You Waste Time/ Your Time is Wasted
Whether you’re wasting your time or your co-workers are wasting it for you, this is one of the best ways to throw off your work life-balance.
Some people see anything that doesn’t have to do with making money as a waste of time. Some people scream at others for taking too long in the drive through. However, when it comes to work, let’s define wasted time as time that is intentionally or unintentionally diverted from completing your deliverables. These are the hours and minutes that will always have to be made up for, whether it’s on your time or not.
As we develop more and more technology to help us communicate, automate and otherwise save time, we discover new and exciting ways to waste more time than ever. Learning new tools, changing the “official” app for in-office communication, no matter how new tech diverting your time away from work, this is still time wasted. ‘
The same goes for misspent meetings and bologna brainstorm sessions. However your time is being wasted at work, the last thing you want to do is make up the difference when you could be relaxing at home. The sooner you can pinpoint how and why your time is being wasted at work, the sooner you can get a healthier work/life balance.
If your time is being wasted, you need to find the major culprits and bring them to justice. Whether it’s a co-worker that’s decided that you’re their mentor or you’re using outdated tech, you need to get to identify the things/people who are wasting your time and stop them. To identify these time sinks, make an hour by hour schedule of your work week, and then plot how you actually spend your time against this schedule. The difference will show you exactly where all of your time is going and what needs to change in order to improve your work/life balance.
If you’re wasting time at work intentionally, you should consider finding a new job. Most everyone is guilty of wasting a little bit of time at work (checking social media, taking a few extra minutes at lunch, having non-work conversations with co-workers, etc.) but wasting too much time is just, well, wasting your time. You aren’t doing your employer any favors by pretending to work and you aren’t doing yourself any favors either (how good do you think this reference will be, bub?). If you can stop wasting time and get your butt into gear, then you might get more out of your work day. At the very least, you will get a better reference when all is said and done and a better chance at landing a job that you actually enjoy.
Finding a healthy work/life balance is dependent on both the individual worker and the company they work for.
Employers, studies have shown greater work/life balance to improve employee satisfaction, productivity and retention. While you can fire the people who say they’re over-worked, this sort of scorched earth policy will cost you more in the long run. If you help your employees to find a good work/life balance, you will see them happier and more productive than ever before.
Employees, no matter your working situation, you are ultimately responsible for your own work/life balance. If you aren’t taking the time to relax and recover or if you are a couch potato, then your work life balance is bound to be skewed. The same is true if you are over worked or completely over working.
Finding a great balance between work and play can be tricky, but it is possible to get the best of both worlds.