(Photo by Flickr user guiguis. Published on www.iamexpat.nl on 12 March 2013)
Some call it work-life balance, others prefer work-life integration, or life potential. No matter what you call it, the result we are looking for remains the same; the search for a sense of balance between work life and home life. Whether you are a female, male, with kids, no kids, single or living with a partner – we are all looking for balance in our lives. You constantly have to choose how much time you want to spend in the many different roles and activities you have. It’s a daily activity. As situations change, you have to keep shifting your focus to maintain balance.
It’s different for everyone!
It’s important to remember that work-life balance is very individual, and this is one of the main reasons why generic corporate policies don’t work. You can experience a similar situation to your colleague but the way you perceive it, internalise it and react to it, will be different. If you are able to find a solution, then you are rewarded with a sense of balance, feeling healthy, happy, and not experiencing the negative consequences of conflict.
How can you achieve balance?
Sustainable balance can be achieved if you develop a skill set, and solutions, to deal with challenges, big and small. Why? Because these skills will be the difference between staying stuck in the conflict or getting back into balance. We are constantly oscillating, which is not surprising as we live in a world that is constantly oscillating around us, and we need support, skills and solutions to return us to a comfortable balance.
An important note
I am not suggesting that you have to have an even balance across all areas of your life, at every point in your life. That is simply not possible. Either you will decide for yourself or demands from others will dictate how much attention and time your work, your family, your friends, or you, need! You will know that you’re in “balance” because it will be the period of time when you feel you can manage your roles and responsibilities, without it affecting your health and well-being.
What if you’re not in balance?
Being out of balance is not an enjoyable place to be. Work-life conflict can seriously impact your health. Unfortunately, most people don’t recognise the warning signs themselves; it’s normally family, friends or colleagues who see them first.
In a European survey, researchers found a 20 percent decline in optimism and happiness between 2007 and 2011, and 53 percent of Europeans reported being too tired to do anything when they come home from work. Scary statistics, aren’t they? Lack of optimism and happiness, and tiredness are all contributing factors to work-life conflict.
I’d like to share a story with you – an HR Director I used to work with, was always the last in the office, and often the first in.
One evening he was working late (again) and when he went to leave around 9.30pm, he couldn’t stand up, he couldn’t physically get out of his chair. He called his wife and asked her to come and get him.
He was off work for six months and it was a slow, difficult recovery to come back to work. He’d had a breakdown that affected his physical and mental health; he couldn’t function in his work or home life.
This is quite an extreme example of work-life conflict, but it is a real example of how continuous long working hours, with little rest and little self-care can seriously affect your physical, mental and emotional health.
› Your body wasn’t designed to stay in an office for 12 hours per day, behind a computer or sat in a chair, with little physical movement.
› Your mind can only work effectively with regular rest and recuperation, and will struggle to perform and focus with long working hours.
› Your emotions will be more sensitive when we are physically tired and mentally drained.
Can you think of some examples when your physical, mental or emotion energy was running low and you were finding it difficult to balance everything? The quote by Rabbi Kuschner says so much… “in all my years of counselling those near death, I’ve yet to hear anyone say they wished they had spent more time at the office.”
The good news is we’re in the right place! In a worldwide survey of the healthiest work-life balance countries to live in, the Netherlands was ranked 5th place out of 36. Mexico ranked lowest, the UK was 20th and the USA was 29th!
The other good news is there are lots of things you can do to help your balance. In the next article in this series of Work-Life Balance I will share some real life examples of what others have done to improve their balance.