Sometimes it can be difficult to separate work from life. Many of us fear leaving our work behind when we go home because we might miss something. Others wonder if they turn their cell phones off if their boss will get angry at them. We’ve all become so dependent on cell phones, computers, and tablets that keeping the rest of our lives separate from work becomes almost impossible.
Even for people who do occasionally turn off their electronic devices, thoughts of work can still seep into outside activities. While it would be great if we could all completely separate our work lives from our home lives, there are too many “what ifs” plaguing most Americans to have that happen. So what’s the solution? While we can’t completely turn off our thoughts (or our cell phones), we can make it a priority to regularly experience life outside of work.
Because we are all so connected now through different mobile and other electronic devices, it can be difficult to separate work from the rest of our lives. This sometimes forces employees to be on all the time, even when they are not at work. The positive of this change in connectivity is that many employees can work anywhere and at any time, which means they may not have to be in the office all week, but this is also changing the definition of the work-life balance. If workers don’t know when to stop or step away, they face the possibility of working almost continually.
However, the technological changes are not all bad: they can lead to more effective time management, as well. According to a study on success by Accenture, work-life balance helped define career success for respondents, ahead of money, recognition, and autonomy. Seventy-eight percent of respondents also said that technology helped them be more flexible with their work schedules, but 70 percent said that technology brings work into their personal lives. The trick is figuring out how to use technology to help you without seriously affecting your personal life.
Many employers will expect that if you can easily connect to a conference call, pick up your cell phone when someone calls about work, or spend a few extra hours on a project from home, you will do it. You have to decide just how much you can handle and be able to set limits. A strong work-life balance requires being able to turn off your devices sometimes, or at least step away from the computer and talk to someone.
Maintaining a strong work-life balance is important for several reasons. If you work 60 hours a week and when you come home (or shut off your computer if you are already there) and you are too tired to interact with anyone else or cook a nice meal, take a walk, or read a book, you will be missing out on important activities that help make life worthwhile. Although many of us feel that our job (or boss) is too important to ignore, other people will also notice if you are too connected.
You can’t have a meaningful conversation if you continually pick up your phone or check your email, and your vacation won’t be very relaxing if you are constantly working on your laptop.
In order to have time for work and play, you need to actually schedule the time on your calendar. Instead of thinking that you will go home after 8.5 hours or that you will turn your work cell phone off when something important happens, take the time to actually schedule specific activities into your week (time with family or friends, time at the gym, etc.). That way you will be less likely to cancel or whip out your laptop.
Also, when possible, let go of obligations or activities that you are not attached to. While it’s hard to say no, if you have little personal time, you shouldn’t waste it on people or things you could do without. Include exercise in your daily routine, as well (or at least aim for it a few times per week); exercise will help keep you healthy, and it can also be a mood-booster.
Finding a strong work-life balance can be difficult. For many of us, working 40 hours a week or more zaps our energy, and we have little motivation to do much more when we finally are finished with our work. For others, the work is never finished, and it’s difficult to step away or disconnect due to fear of retaliation or just the fact that there is always more to do. However, if you make it a priority to have time to have fun and build relationships with people, you will have a more satisfying life.