Finding the appropriate work-life balance is a challenge that every individual struggles with at some point in their life. As Juliet Schor reports in her book “The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure,” hours worked and stress about those jobs are on the incline, while family time, sleep, and leisure time are gradually becoming more like amenities, rather than necessities for all classes of employed Americans.
According to research, finding a suitable work-life balance is even harder if you’re a member of a younger generation.
“Nearly one-third of millennials say managing their work, family, and personal responsibilities has become more difficult in the past five years,” writes Time contributor Donna Rosato. “And nearly half—47%—are working more hours, compared with 38% of Generation X and 28% of baby boom workers, according to a recent survey by Ernst & Young’s Global Generation Research.”
It’s no wonder that we as a society struggle with maintaining an adequate work-life balance. Add faith, hobbies, continued education, or self-care into the mix and the balancing act becomes even more complicated.
But there are things you can do to overcome the challenges that come with managing your personal and your professional life.
Be Open With Your Employer
Each of us has demands outside of the workplace. Family members fall ill, children and spouses have needs, and we all have activities that make us fulfilled outside of the workplace. For decades, disclosing details of your personal life in the workplace was deemed unprofessional, but more and more, managers are being more supportive of their employees’ demands outside of the workplace. Increasingly, employers have become more open to the idea of offering flexible work options for their employees.
“Most companies have already come around to seeing that flexibility is important for recruitment and retention of employees: 63 percent of employers already allow ‘‘some’’ employees to work from home on an occasional basis, according to one major study, up from only 34 percent as recently as 2005,” writes NY Times contributor Susan Dominus.
Other experts note that being open with your boss about your life outside of work can help to solidify your relationship, making it easier to come to them about more serious and personal issues in the future.
Prioritize Tasks and Practice Effective Time Management
Since each individual accomplishes work differently, practicing effective time management is a must when trying to maintain a work-life balance. How do you tackle your to-do lists? When do you have the most energy to accomplish tasks?
“Work-life balance is not about cranking out all nighters just because everyone else is doing it,” writes Francesca El-Attrash. “It’s about figuring out how you manage stress, accomplish tasks, and motivate yourself to get things done. Learning the best strategies for your at-work and at-home to do lists can help you better manage all your responsibilities and deadlines.”
This will also allow you to know what you can feasibly accomplish in a day, prioritize and delegate tasks if necessary, and be more productive in your day-to-day both at work and at home.
Develop a Support Network
Many dual-income families have a built-in support network of relatives who can step in when things get tough around the house. For those worried about their work-life balance, maintaining and expanding that support network can be crucial.
By building a network of coworkers, friends, and family, you may be able to take time off more easily as problems arise. Not to mention that you’re more likely to have support when you need a break from the chaos.
Don’t Neglect Self-Care
It’s not uncommon for working professionals to glamorize how much they sacrifice their health for productivity. Many professional spaces are rife with individuals boasting about the meals they’ve skipped and hours of sleep lost in order to focus on their professional careers. But in order to optimize your work and family life, your health — both physical and mental — has to be a top priority.
Self-care comes in a variety of forms, and no one formula will work for everyone. For some, self-care requires a moderate level of exercise, a proper diet, and a good night’s sleep. Others may find comfort in making time to read a book, discussing their mental health with a counselor, pursuing church activities, or developing a new hobby.
In prioritizing these endeavors to varying capacities, individuals become more effective workers and also have more satisfying home lives.
All in all, achieving a healthy work-life balance is something that we all strive to accomplish — but getting there is far from easy. Through open communication, a newfound look at priorities, and a support network of friends and family, a healthy work-life balance is more easily achieved.