Do You Have “Work-Life Balance”? (How Do You Know?)

“Work-life balance.”

It’s becoming sort of a mantra in today’s world.

You’ll hear it from the lips of many top executives, seasoned HR practitioners, and even fresh graduates.

But what is it, really, and how do you know that you have it?

That’s what this post is all about.

What Is Work-Life Balance?

“Work-life balance” is simply the effective management of professional pursuits and personal activities, so that one excels in one’s career, while also taking care of the personal side of things.

But that’s easier said than done.

“Work-life balance” itself is a very difficult concept to nail.

It’s a nebulous idea and people can have very different takes on it. While many consent that we need balance in life, very few can agree on what that entails.

There are varying gradations to what that life is supposed to be.

Not only is it an ambiguous concept, but it’s dynamic as well, changing meaning as we go through the different stages in life. A young man who has just stepped into the corporate arena will have a very different view of “work-life balance” from a family man who’s a father of three.

In the end, the harmony between professional pursuits and personal well-being will depend on the individual and his particular set of circumstances.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t have indicators of what a “balanced” life looks like. There are clear signs and symptoms you need to be on the lookout for.

How Do You Know?

Here are 5 parameters to help you gauge whether you got “it” or not:

#1 Boundaries Between Work Time and Personal Time

Signs of Balance:

One crucial indicator is your ability to disconnect from work-related tasks and communications.

Having set work hours or a routine gives predictability to your day, signalling when work begins and when it ends. You’re also keenly aware of when your breaks are and when you’re back in “Serious Mode.”

This lets you align your energies during work hours and lets you wind down as the work day ends. There’s a simple clarity between your professional and personal life, so much so that the people around you know when one ends and the other begins.

Symptoms of Imbalance:

On the other hand, if you find yourself frequently working late into the evening, (beyond the hours mentioned in your contract), answering work emails when you should be doing something else, and feeling constantly “on call,” then you’re dealing with symptoms of an imbalance.

Work is either encroaching into your “Me” time or family time or worse, you find it difficult to mentally disconnect from the job in the first place.

This happens when you have not firmly established boundaries between the two, and one simply blurs into the other.

#2 Physical Health and Mental Health

Signs of Balance:

Having a “work-life balance” doesn’t mean you don’t experience pressure at work.

It means that despite the pressures, you’re still able to have regular exercise, eat healthy and get sufficient sleep. Mentally, you’re energized and motivated.

You don’t feel like you’re trading health and well-being for money.

At the very least, you have opportunities to physically and mentally recover from the pressures of work.

Symptoms of Imbalance:

On the other hand, when work becomes so overwhelming you don’t even have time to get a decent meal, or you consistently find yourself running on just a few hours of sleep, then something is askew.

You’re constantly anxious and often experiencing headaches. You’re constantly fatigued and feel like you’re one working weekend away from job burnout.

The job is slowly damaging your health and well-being.

#3 Work Performance and Job Satisfaction

Signs of Balance:

Your work aligns with your values and you find meaning in the goals you’ve set.

The different tasks involved are in that “sweet spot” where they’re challenging enough vis-à-vis your experience and skills, and not loaded with unrealistic and impossible expectations. In other words, the job stretches you, but not to the point of overwhelm.

As a result, you’re able to meet deadlines and be productive during work hours.

Symptoms of Imbalance:

There’s a persistent and long-term feeling of dissatisfaction with your job. For a dozen and one reason, you do not feel fulfilled. And no matter what you do, you feel unproductive and ineffective in your role.

You might always be in “work mode,” but you have low engagement and motivation tasks. This inadvertently informs your performance and the quality of your output.

You might need extra hours just to meet deadlines, which bleeds into your personal time. And because you were not able to decompress, resentment builds.

A vicious cycle sets in.

#4 Quality of Relationships

Signs of Balance:

You have meaningful interactions with friends and family.

You have opportunities to maintain social relationships.

That means having time for social activities and family gatherings.

If you want to, you’re able to eat together as a family, go on trips with them, or simply hang out. And you’re mentally “present” in those interactions. You’re not tethered to your phone, worrying about what’s happening at work.

Your spouse doesn’t feel neglected or think she comes second to your job. Your children can come to you and ask for advice. You’re also able to regularly catch up with friends.

Symptoms of Imbalance:

You haven’t paid much attention to your relationships, taking them for granted.

Well, you don’t really think they’re not important, but your focus, energy and attention are always pulled somewhere else.

Your interactions with your spouse are bland and routine, and you haven’t found the time to date. And during those moments when the marital bonds are strained, you run back to the familiarity of work for refuge.

Your children don’t dare go near you because you snap at them when they try to get your attention.

Your friends have stopped asking you to go out because they’re used to the fact that you never come.

You miss social events or family milestones because they always seem to coincide with a very important meeting or deadline. On the rare occasion that you do make it, your mind is preoccupied.

#5 Personal Fulfillment

Signs of Balance:

You might be busy, but you still find time for hobbies, personal interests and leisure activities.

“Me” time is spent on activities that bring you joy and exhilaration.

You have time to live your life—unlike some who spend their free time barely catching up on sleep (or laundry).

Symptoms of Imbalance:

You sweep your hobbies under the rug because they always look so insignificant compared to the job. Besides, you feel guilty when taking time off.

So even in your free time, you engage in things related to the job. Because you find it difficult to enjoy things that are not work-related.

In short, you’re neglecting recreational needs in favour of professional pursuits—thinking you’ll have time for R&R when you’ve accomplished X and Y.

What To Do?

If you find yourself nodding in agreement to the symptoms of imbalance mentioned above, what can you do to get some balance in your life? Here are 5 things you can try out:

#1 Set Firm Boundaries

If your work is often encroaching on your personal time (and vice versa), it’s because you haven’t established a firm boundary between those two.

To avoid this, you need to:

  • Designate a workspace in which you regularly work from. This will help you mentally separate professional tasks from personal activities. Sure, you can carry your laptop somewhere else and have a change of scenery from time to time but have a designated room, desk, or corner from which you work. That way, once you remove yourself from that space, you can disconnect from the job.
  • Establish your work hours. Choose consistent start and end times for your workday. (Inform your family, friends and colleagues about this.) This establishes a routine that helps you know when to work and when to stop.

This is easier said than done though. It’s always tempting to go overtime especially when there are unfinished tasks. But consistently doing so will only lessen your efficiency during work hours because, at the back of your head, you always know you can go over time. So be strict with your schedule.

  • Do not entertain communications outside your work hours. The problem with 24/7 connectivity is that we’re not able to switch off. At any time, anybody can shoot us a message or send us an email.

But be disciplined enough to entertain those things only during work hours. Apart from extraordinary circumstances, you should be the first one to respect the schedule you’ve made for yourself.

#2 Prioritise Self-care

When it comes to “work-life balance,” it is the “work” side of things that often encroaches on the other.

Workers often forego time with the family or the chance to have some R&R, just for a little bit more work.

It’s easier to sacrifice personal time because on that side of things, no boss could get you in trouble, and you don’t see any missed deadlines, missed quotas or missed metrics.

But you need to prioritise self-care even if you don’t see any harm in the short term because you will feel the pinch eventually. It will come in the form of health issues, burnout, irritability, damaged relationships, depression and lack of fulfilment.

Nobody on his death bed regretted and wished he had worked more. So prioritise self-care. You deserve it.

#3 Plan & Organise

When you’re forced to work longer hours, it often betrays a fundamental lack of planning and foresight.

You need to get better at planning and managing your time. Being busy and having lots of things to do is already a given. But failing to plan and organise can do a whole lot of damage and stress to your life.

Learn to plan, prioritise and prepare.

#4 Simplify Radically

Often, we need to work hard to support a certain lifestyle. We miss out on family time because of bills that need to be paid. They come like clockwork each month and it almost seems like we have no choice but to forego personal activities for the needs of the family.

But radically simplifying our lifestyles can be an option for those overwhelmed with the bills that go with that lifestyle. Regardless of what we think, we actually need a lot less than what we’re accustomed to.

By simplifying your life, foregoing unnecessary expenses, and living below your means, you can focus on the smaller and more meaningful experiences.

A simplified life carries less stress.

#5 Seek Support

When you’re overwhelmed with things to do, it can either be because you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, setting unrealistic expectations of yourself, or you’re a one-man band trying to do everything.

Learn how to delegate and enlist the help of others.

Seeking “work-life balance” often requires a reduction in the “work” part of the equation, and entails outsourcing that work to others, tapping their expertise and experience.

For example, wearing all hats in your business will eat up all of your time. You’ll burn out even before the business gets off the ground.

Hire competent people instead. They can help you make your vision a reality. Enlist the help of assistants, writers, marketers and managers.

“Work-life balance” is not an easy feat. But with the help of others, it can become a reality.

Kinetic Innovative Staffing can help business owners achieve “work-life balance” by assisting them to find competent remote professionals for their businesses.

With Kinetic’s candidate pool of over 4 million professionals, we can fill a broad range of roles from virtual assistants, accountants, and paralegals, to writers, graphic artists and software developers.

By hiring remote workers, you are saving, on average, 70% in your labour costs.

And we make the whole hiring process a breeze.

If this sounds like something you’d like to explore for your business, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll get you all the help that you need.

 

Kinetic Innovative Staffing has been providing hundreds of companies in the Asia Pacific, North America, the Middle East, and Europe with professionals working remotely from the Philippines since 2013. Get in touch to know more.

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