The Challenge of Finding a Balance – Has Work Taken Over?

work life balance

Work-life balance refers to actions, decisions, and obligations that define the amount of time one spends on work and on the rest of life.

As you can tell by yourself, some of these actions are within our control (like actions and decisions), while others are not (obligations, before all). Having that in mind, one must conclude that both employer and employee have an equally important part to play in creating a healthy work-life balance.

No doubt we are living in a so-called always-on culture. Availability that came with technology development is indeed a double-edged sword – no wonder so many people struggle with work-life balance.

According to a Harvard Business School survey, 94% of service professionals put in 50+ hours a week. The result is very much apparent – the lack of work-life balance. And with that came consequences which we all suffer.

The first in line to fall is our most precious possession. Our health.

When we work more than we actually can, sleep starts to become impaired; and we’re more likely to feel depressed and stressed. We can even have a harder time communicating, collaborating, and getting things done.

RescueTime analyzed 185 million working hours their users spent last year. Here are some numbers. Sit down before you start reading it. You will be shocked!

  • Workers have circa 2 hours and 48 minutes of productive device time a day
  • 21% of working hours are spent on entertainment, news, and social media
  • 28% of workers start their day before 8:30 AM (and 5% start before 7 AM)
  • 40% of people use their computers after 10 PM
  • 26% of work is done outside of normal working hours
  • Emails and IMs are checked every 6 minutes
  • 1% of our day is spent multitasking (which can be very stressful, by the way)

Bottom line, these results go hand in hand with the recent revelation that knowledge workers, on average, spend just 2 hours and 48 minutes a day on productive tasks (or 14 hours and 8 minutes a week)!

Here’s a graft of how office time was distributed in 2018:

work life balance - how time is spent

So, this was all about working hours. But, what happens when the clock hits 5 o’clock? Apparently, nothing. Business as usual, most working people would say. Today, a good old nine-to-five job seems like an ancient relic. Staying in the office past your scheduled working hours is something that’s expected of you.  And did you know that 40% of people use their computers after working hours, and even after 10 pm? We would like to underline that we are talking about desktop computers and laptops only. Not smartphones.

Do you ever wonder where your private life has gone? The one where you don’t stress out about a late-night email, and where you think more about that new barbecue than a day that is ahead of you. Well, believe it or not, your job-related-stress-free private life starts – at your office!

How come?

Well, by always following these rules, you will come out of the office unburdened and ready to give yourself up to your one and only private life:

  1. Learn to say NO

Define your boundaries. Knowing when to say “no” is just as important as knowing when to say “yes.” Just do what you can for others, while still doing your job the best you can.

  1. Learn to free yourself of all those “Shoulds”

No, you shouldn’t stay late just because your boss is a workaholic with no family or even a cat. You really shouldn’t. And no, you shouldn’t take that extra project even if your agenda is fully stacked with other projects. Usually, it’s nobody but you that makes these demands on your time and energy. Stop it.

  1. Learn that office is NOT your second home

It’s no home at all. So, stop spending so much time there and go home. Your real home.

  1. Learn to control your flexibility

Because, in the end, extreme flexibility is nothing else but inconsistency. Remember that! And it leads directly to a stress zone. And it’s not a happy place. At all!

In the last couple of years, this topic of work-life balance has taken over the business world. New trends keep popping up, as well as new suggestions and advice on how to maintain wellbeing. We can see positive results from experiments like 4-day workweekstelecommuting, and flex-time. Their most valuable results are boosted morale, resilience, trust, and productivity.

Besides all that, a newly discovered link between rising healthcare costs and workplace stress might also have something to do with the actuality of this issue. Recent Harvard research results show that workplace stress may account for more than 120,000 deaths annually and costs some $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending. In the US only!

And what are the consequences of a healthy work-life balance deficit? Fatigue, a compromised immune system, heart disease, and high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and an increased risk for substance abuse – are just a few among many, many others health risk factors, caused by a poor work-life balance.

According to Forbes, companies and their employees will have to start thinking in a different way when it comes to the way we work and live. This isn’t only because there are fewer of us to do more work, but because the workforce in 2020 is going to be occupied by five generations! Five different mindsets, upbringing models and priority lists.

So, who is the most important link in this chain of responsibility?

The employer, of course. He creates workplace policies, culture, and management practices. And what can you do, as an employee? Start by enriching your private life.

Meditate. Give your mind a chance to recharge and reset. Start by meditating just 5 minutes a day. Think of nothing, empty your mind and then go with a flow. You’ll love it! Exercise. Spend time with your family and friends. Keep having long meals, around the table with dear people. As often as you can. Never miss a vacation – plan it wisely.

Remember that true success stems from all aspects of your life, not just work. Make the “life” in work-life balance a priority. Starting today.

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