Check out this weather! It’s so nice outside. Don’t you just wanna go out there and live life? Too bad! You have to go to work. (don’t you hate me right now?) But wait! I have a great work life balance, don’t I? If I have to go to work today then what does that term even mean? I often find myself wondering how I can measure work life balance. Is it improving? Is it declining? Work life balance is defined differently for each of us. I think of work as being at work, and personal life as the life part. When I get to work from home, it’s technically still work, but it seems less like work because I’m home. I can take short breaks when at work, or at home, but my breaks at work are just to clear my head. My breaks at home can include playing with my dog. There is a big difference there. I’m not saying that working from home satisfies my work life balance, but it is an improvement. So that being said you can start to see a picture forming. Again, this is just my picture, but I must represent a certain amount of people like me.
Work life balance is not working half of your time and living life for the other half. That is most likely not going to happen for most of us. It’s integrating your personal and work life. Things like not working late, not working on weekends, working from home, a good vacation and healthcare package all contribute to a calmer state of being “ohm …. ohm” (sorry got carried away there). These things all ask for sacrifices from your employer. So, what are you able to give back in return for a better balance of work and life? It’s only fair that the company that invests in you, gets something in return for your new-found freedoms. You should plan on being more engaged at work. If you are working from home, give back even more so there is never a question of how engaged you are. That doesn’t mean sending an email to let people know you are not sitting on your couch instead of working, but rather, respond to things quickly and get your work done. People will notice. You can do this by thinking: “What if the company you worked at was your idea that grew into the place you work today?” That will allow you to take more pride in your work and realize that even though there may be a lot of flaws where you work, the company is still making money and still delivers for its customers. If you can make that a little better for people, you are also making it better for you. If you care a little more, you go home feeling accomplished and that’s important for both the business and your life.
There are also other ways to make your life easier and benefit the company. This contributes to a better balance as well. Start learning how to automate tasks that you do over and over. Sometimes, it’s learning how to use Microsoft Excel to make calculations and generate charts. If it’s as simple as typing in some numbers in Excel and your TPS reports now have charts when you turn them in. It will get noticed. Plus, you probably made your job easier in the process because Excel can give you answers you used to have work out manually. In an extreme version of this, you could outsource a small specific program. While this is a more expensive option, you have to weigh it out. How much time will the software save you in time? If you can automate even 10% of your job, that equates to one day out of a five-day work week. How much is that worth to you? You may have just spent $300, but between that and Excel, you are getting your work done a day sooner and have improved your deliverables. You’re now working less and delivering more! It could be worth it to some of us.
Don’t expect to get your employer to offer you all things Zen. Maybe the answer is to seek some of these things over time. Certain professions may not be willing to offer you any of it. So, this is something you should decide early in your career and work towards getting all you can. If you start to get some of it, let your employer know how great it is! Don’t get complacent with it and even bring in cookies to show how much you like things. This is my view and what it takes for me to have a great work life balance. What is your definition? How close to that definition are you today and what are you doing to get the rest of the way?