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The Work-Life Imbalance

Often I come across an article or a quiz asking me to examine my “work-life balance.” It’s a term we should have all encountered by now – whether in a magazine, an HR seminar, even in a casual dinner conversation. To nod your head and affirm, “Of course, I have a great work-life balance,” carries a sense of pride as if you’re really saying “Yeah, I’ve got it all together.” But what defines a work-life balance? Must the parts always be equal to keep the scales from tipping too far in one direction?

We spend the majority of our waking hours working in some capacity. In the best case scenario, only 40 hours of our week is spent in a formal work environment, but what about all of those evening and weekend emails, phone calls and “emergency projects” that cut into the little time we’re already given for “life?” Such tasks sneak extra weight onto the “work” side of the scale and can lead to an imbalance we don’t even know exists.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken more notice to how I’ve been chipping away at my free time by choosing to do a several minutes of work-related tasks here and there. Even just a few minutes can turn into hours over the course of a week. For example, I try to finish up my last work project of the day no later than 6pm. But while I enjoy dinner and a little bit of television, my mind is still very much on work. If I hear the chirp of an email – I answer it. And so this persists throughout the evenings and into the weekends. My best estimate is that on average, I burden myself with an additional 7-10 hours of work each week beyond what’s expected or demanded. When all added up, that’s a full day! A day in which I could have taken a road trip, enjoyed the beautiful fall weather or simply decompressed. And while these off-hour emails may help progress work, they put a major halt on life.

Back when I wrote about The Two-Day Truce, I urged everyone to resist the urge to do unnecessary work on the weekends because it only causes the recipients of the emails to feel the pressure to respond. Essentially it takes away from everyone’s weekend. I have gotten better about not being a weekend warrior with work, but I realized an even bigger problem. We’re so trained to work, we do it without even knowing it. Consciously we may feel like we’re living a pretty balanced life, but really our scales are so off kilter they’re nearly falling over altogether.

I couldn’t tell you how many times a day I check my phone for new emails, especially after “work hours.” I’m not sure I would want to know. By proactively checking for emails and refreshing my inbox, I’m looking for work to do instead of enjoying that other component that should fill our time – life. A true Work-Life Balance is so much more than saying you leave your office or close your laptop at 6pm. Chances are we’re very accessible to work during any of the hours in between. But when we’re at work are we this accessible to life? Every week’s schedule is different and there’s no doubt that there will be some weeks that demand an imbalanced share of our time for work. The key is to find the balance not every day or every week, but over the long run.

The Work-Life Balance may not be so much about balance after all. Maybe it’s more about flexibility and our openness to work more when we absolutely have to, but to also seize extra moments of “life” when the opportunity should arise. If you can’t close down by 6pm tonight, don’t sweat it, but plan for some extra relaxing time in your schedule later this weekend to make up for the difference and realign the balance!

What about you. Is your work-life balanced…flexible…or somewhat of both?

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Success Versus the Work-Life Balance (Guest Blog by Sam Bessant)

The following blog post is part of the Bennis Blogger Battle. Support Sam by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment and sharing it on your social media! The blog with the most hits, wins.

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In this day and age it is often assumed that one cannot be truly successful at work whilst also being successful in other areas of their life. We hear a lot about work-life balance and in the movies at least, the most successful executives are portrayed as sorely lacking in the social environment. Is this really the case though, and if it is, what can we do about it?

To gain some perspective on the subject, I posed the question to a selection of people I know and the answers that came back were as varied as the people that gave them. They ranged from working for a boss who likes you, having free evenings and turning your work mobile off outside of working hours to loving your work so much that it is your life. It was this last answer that really got me thinking as it’s the one which is most ambiguous. On the one hand, your work being your life might be a great thing if it means that your work flexes to fit into everything that you do. On the other side of the fence, is that top executive whose work is their life as there is no life for the work to flex around.

So how do you know if your work / life ratio is actually balanced? Well, the first thing you need to consider is what “balanced” actually means to you. What are your priorities and how much do you enjoy your work? If your main priority in life is to get to the top then you might be happy to spend 3 times as many hours working in comparison to how many you have for socializing per week. However, if you work merely to pay the bills and dislike your job intensely, you may want to flip that ratio on its head.

Essentially, a work life balance is as unique as the person whose work and life are in question. A true balance comes from within, from the feeling of contentedness that comes with happiness. After all, regardless of personal differences and aspirations, we all only live once; so for most of us the aim is to be happy for as much of that life as possible. My advice to you would be to weigh how much of your life is spent happy vs. how much is spent in discontentment. If you fall on the side of happy the majority of the time, you’ve most likely got your work / life balance right and that may be working 20 hours per week or working 60 hours per week. It’s really not about work vs. life, it’s about happiness and how you balance the elements of your life to achieve it.

Sam BessantSam Bessant is 26 and lives in Reading, UK. She currently works the standard office 9-6 whilst trying to finalize the direction she will take to start her own business. Sam’s blog, 20somethingfreak was created to help Sam and others understand what it is to be in your 20s and for Sam to share some of the millions of daydreams she has every day! Please support Sam by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment below and visiting her personal blog: www.20somethingfreak.wordpress.com.

 
 

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