5 Ways To Maintain A Work-Life Balance
We often hear the phrase “work-life balance” thrown around, but what does it really mean? Being able to create and maintain a work-life balance between your work self and your personal self.
It means not feeling compelled to respond to 10:00pm emails or working through your lunch break. Being a productive employee isn’t just about how many hours you work but, instead, if you have developed the habits which support your longevity in the position.
Creating and maintaining a work-life balance looks different to every worker. Following some basic behaviors will put you on the right path.
Create (and Respect) Boundaries
It is healthy to develop some basic boundaries regarding your work habits. You might start by setting firm office hours. If you are in the office by 8:00am, ensure you leave the office no later than 5:00pm or 5:30pm. Set an alarm during the first few weeks if you need a reminder to close out the day.
Your company should also not expect you to be available outside the standard work hours you designate. Encourage this expectation by remaining unavailable after you clock out. Unless your job involves actual life or death emergencies, whatever it is can wait until the next day.
Boundaries may also encompass what you discuss at work. A work-life balance to you may be keeping both separate. If you have decided you will not be discussing personal matters at work, be sure you know how to deflect those questions and conversations without appearing rude.
Respect the boundaries of others as well. If you always interrupt your colleague during his lunch break and insist he answer your questions, you should not expect him to do any less as you are trying to walk out the door at 5:00pm.
Communicate Your Needs
Part of succeeding at maintaining a work-life balance is being able to communicate what your needs are. While it may not be information all should be privy to, your supervisor and close colleagues should be made aware of any limitations you have on your schedule.
For example, if you have to leave no later than 5:00pm every day to pick up a child from school or daycare, people will understand. They will be less likely to come to you with an urgent item at the end of the day. Be open with your supervisor about your availability so there are no unreasonable expectations.
Learn How To Say No
So many of us are trained to think we can’t say “no” to requests at work because it makes us look lazy or incapable. That is not always true. While we should not be shirking our responsibilities and duties, it’s important to learn how to say “no” when requests are unreasonable. Take the time to think about how it will impact what you’re currently working on and have discussions with your boss if you are concerned taking on another task or project will negatively impact your current ones.
If someone asks you do something for them, consider discussing your current workload with them. Colleagues might hesitate to ask you to do more work if they know how full your plate already is. Most importantly, consider if the request would throw off your current work-life balance. If it would cause an undue burden or too many extra hours in the office, talk to your supervisor about alternative options.
Planning your workday differs greatly from prioritizing your workday. Even with our best-laid plans, our time at the office is often unpredictable and matters that require our attention are always evolving. You need to develop the skills which allow you to make sound decisions regarding what needs to be handled now (or before the end of the workday) and what can wait another 24 hours.
For many workers, they like to think they can get it all done in a day or that the workday has not ended until there are no outstanding items. That is simply not the case when you are trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
From the moment you step outside the office doors, make the conscious decision to unplug yourself from technology that links you back to work. Many of us receive work email on our mobile devices, which makes this especially hard to do. If you need to, turn off notification sounds so you are less likely to reach for your device when an after-hours email comes through.
Unplugging is even more important when you are out of the office during scheduled leave or personal time. If you are taking time away from the office, unplug yourself fully. Do not check email and do not forward your work phone to your cell phone.
The idea is not to allow your work responsibilities to take command of your attention and time during your off hours.
Whatever tricks or habits you implement, it is important to make work-life balance a priority. Our careers are important but our personal space should be as well. Don’t put yourself in a position where you encounter early career burnout because you weren’t able to balance your job early on.