Establishing work-life balance has always been an important aspect of employed people, regardless of your job title. The rule of thumb is that the higher up you are on the job ladder, the more work and responsibility you have and the harder it gets to have a work-life balance. I think this topic became even more important as COVID-19 struck. But the question I’d like to explore in this article is about the existence of a work-life balance. So, is there such a thing as work-life balance?
Yes, I do believe there is such a thing, but perhaps not in the traditional way of seeing it. Ever since I started working, it was very important to me that work happens at the office (whatever office means to you) and life happens outside of it; those two do not touch bases. I always felt so proud of the fact that I wasn’t taking work home and that my personal life did not affect my work. However, the more I learned and grew, the more I started questioning this statement, this feeling of separation that I had.
After a lot of reading and self-reflection, I realized that I do indeed maintain a healthy work-life balance, but not in the way I originally thought. My personal life does affect my work. If I feel anxious or upset, my performance that day is not at my usual level. It’s never been damaging or having negative effects on the work I do, but I know I am not my 100%. On the other hand, if I feel really happy or satisfied, my performance is at its best. I think this is natural for all of us, whether we wanted to see it or not.
It is the same way with my job affecting my personal life. If there’s a problem I am trying to solve, I think about it, even outside the office, perhaps I talk about it with friends or family. You cannot keep the two completely separated, but that doesn’t mean it’s not in balance.
In my opinion, a work-life disbalance happens when the life part of the phrase does not differ from the work part. So, checking that email at home after you come back from work or devoting just 2 hours every Sunday to making sure everything is ready for the next week (which soon turns into 4 hours every Sunday) is just peeking; you’re not really working, right?!
I came to realize that work-life balance actually means being able to focus on one or the other at a given time. If you’re at home, watching TV with your kids or reading a book, then do just that, don’t check your work email. On the other hand, if you’re at home planning your next week at work, do that, but limit yourself to a certain amount of time. Deciding to spend 2 hours working from home is just fine, but make sure it’s 2 hours, don’t turn it into 3 or 10. Limiting yourself when you need to do additional work outside the office is still maintaining a healthy work-life balance. If your brain knows that it’ll get additional time to figure out an issue, it’ll be able to focus on something else in the meantime. Letting the limits slide because you got carried away is not a work-life balance, it’s more of a disbalance, actually.
To sum up, I do believe that there is such a thing as work-life balance, but it doesn’t mean a clear cut between work life and personal life. To me, work-life balance actually means being devoted to one thing at a time and allowing yourself to have both and enjoy both. So, if you’re on your day off and you have to attend a meeting, it’s OK so long as you keep it to that one meeting and spend the rest of your day enjoying other activities. That way, you have given your brain the time to focus on work issues and the time to focus on life without intertwining the two the entire time you were supposed to be doing just one; thus, you continue to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
What are your thoughts on this issue? How would you define work-life balance?
Looking forward to reading your thoughts. In the meantime, keep learning and growing.
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