Hustle culture is losing its appeal with younger generations. But while they value the idea of having a work/life balance, they’re bad at it. Still, having a robust non-office life might counterintuitively benefit your work one. According to Mental Health America, “When workers are balanced and happy, they are more productive, take fewer sick days, and are more likely to stay in their jobs.” So whether your motivation is just to enjoy life more or to be better at your job, it’s worth fighting for your work/life balance.
Work/Life Balance is Harder Than Ever
Conference rooms, spontaneous conversations at the proverbial water cooler, and in-person meetings are simply not necessary for many work situations any more. With Slack, Zoom, and other digital communications taking over, much of our work is no longer tied to a physical location. That has some benefits. On the other hand, most of us no longer have the luxury of clocking out and leaving our work behind. That makes establishing a work/life balance incredibly difficult. How many times have you responded to a work request while putting your kids to bed or having lunch with a friend?
No longer having a forced separation between work and home means it’s a lot easier to ping someone with a random thought or question late at night or on the weekend when you aren’t risking waking their kids with at 9 PM phone call. Shooting off an email or a text at 9 PM is socially acceptable and reading work communications as you’re going to bed or first thing in the morning is often expected.
A “delayed” response of even 10 minutes can cause concern. Now, it almost seems like you literally have to go underground (on the subway) or take a flight to get a break from electronic communications. All our “time savers” eat away at more and more of our time.
Establish Work/Life Balance
It’s worth making balance a priority though. We all know the basics: Snooze Slack when you’re done for the day. Turn off your notifications. Take frequent breaks from the computer, etc.. But have you tried locking your phone in a safe? Sometimes that’s what it seems like it would take to get a true break.
The reality is you may not always be able to avoid working odd hours or catching up after a busy day home with sick kids. So if you must do work outside of regular hours, you can take some steps to respect your coworkers’ balance, too. Use your schedule send option. It’s the best! Instead of sending at 1 AM, schedule an email to send at 8 AM the next day. It’s a small, but worthwhile way to show respect for their time and prevent conditioning them to expect you to work at all hours.
Chances are, if you are so bold as to want a life outside of work, you’ll get a little pushback, but maybe not from where you expect. You’ll likely encounter the most resistance from yourself. Sure, there may be some unreasonable bosses, clients, and coworkers out there, but most understand that a work/life balance is NOT about being lazy or doing less than satisfactory work. It’s more about living in a way that positions you to give your best in every area. Consider what kind of life you want to have and whether your current situation reflects your values. If not, then you can read some of the (many) articles about how to establish a work/life balance.
The Bottom Line
With the current level of access, it takes discipline to have boundaries. Fight for your work/life balance and respect others’ boundaries, too. Everything will be better for it, including your work.