Mastering work/life balance
As I read my latest Women’s Health magazine, I pick up on a little note that they have on their ‘Career Scoop’ page. It says:
“Working longer hours can mean an increased risk of depression. Researches from the University College London in the UK surveyed just over 2000 civil servants and found that staff who worked 11 or more hours a day were two and a half times more likely to experience a depressive episode. Even more incentive to clock-off on time.”
Thank you Women’s Health, you have reminded me to write about something that is very important to me.
But why? Well, in my former career as an executive assistant, I was working in a huge company for a dominating, work obsessed boss and I realised something that really offended me. The leader preached to employees that they were fine with work/life balance and they didn’t mind if people had to leave at a reasonable time to get home. But really, they meant the complete opposite.
Every time someone needed to leave on time, they would get a quiet, almost invisible but at the same time very obvious ‘oh’. And then the good work flow would stop. And snide comments would start about how they have more important things to, or about being a woman and it was understandable because we need to be home by 7 to cook our men dinner.
Eventually if they didn’t play by the rules, the employees would pretty much be forced to leave because the work would dry up completely and they would get bored. So really, they were quietly being beaten into submission. Just because the boss was happy to work 20 hour days and neglect their family, you were expected to do the same.
That experience was so awful that it made me want to go out and show people how they can maintain a work life balance.
It’s important to realise that a work/life balance is different for everyone. It’s not as simple as just turning up to work at 9am and leaving at 5pm. Some people really love working – and that’s fine! I love my job, but I love my lifestyle and health more and I believe in the importance of pens down, it’s the end of the day. But that’s my personal opinion and the way that I like to work. My story just now might have given you the feeling that I might put myself on a pedestal and start preaching about how you should leave big firms and quit your job, ask for less hours, stand up to bullies (although personally I think you should always stand up to bullies), but that’s not what I do.
Why? Because at the end of the day how much you work is simply your choice. Whether you don’t want to work or you want to work until the cows come home or something in between, it is your choice to find and work at the job that lets you work those hours. It is your choice about whether you choose to lay down the letter of the law with your boss about boundaries. It is your choice, if you are self-employed, about whether you decide to outsource or learn how to be more productive with your time. What I concentrate on, is how to not bring your work home with you. Because that’s when it starts to damage your health, lifestyle and relationships.
So, first things first, you need to think about what a work/life balance looks like for you. If you figure out that you want to be home at 3 to pick the kids up and then go back to work, or, you want to work 9am to 5pm, or 11am to 7pm – whatever takes your fancy – try and see if your current work place will accommodate it. If not, how much do you want to be there? Do you even want to be in that job? Is it worth the sacrifice? If not, what are you doing there? I know I am an eternal optimist (most times!), but I think Richard Branson’s philosophy is awesome:
“If work stops being fun, you should probably be doing something else.”
Am I unrealistic thinking this way? I don’t think so. If you don’t want to be unhappy in your work anymore, or you don’t want to sacrifice anymore, it’s time to change. This is our life that we are playing with here, not the Game of Life.
The second part is once you have established what you want your work/life balance to look like, be fierce in protecting it. And you do this by making sure that when you leave work, you stop work. It doesn’t come home with you. You need to find something in between work and home, a special place or an activity to do, so you can make a transition from work time, to home time. Having a life is all about HAVING A LIFE. That means, no more thinking about work. No paperwork, no phone calls. Work is work and home is home and they need to be kept separate.
But, sometimes this is hard!
And this is why you need to find something in between to help you make the switch. If you can switch before you get home in to your ‘home zone’, then you will be able to enjoy and value the time that you have at home, rather than lose it to work. Think about what you could do, to help you make the switch from work to home. It doesn’t need to be hard or time intensive. Just enough to help you get over your day at work, and enjoy your time at home.
Until next week!
Lady Calamity x