Despite being a buzzword, work-life balance is an impossible dream for many. And for those who achieved it, it still feels like walking a tightrope; one urgent email is enough to throw everything out of balance.
What is work-life balance, anyway?
Imagine this: you can comfortably meet the demands of both your job and personal relationships. Nothing’s sacrificed, and in case one needs to give way, it’s not too compromised. That’s work-life balance.
You have enough time to attend to your work duties, but you also have time to attend to your friends and family. More importantly, you have time for yourself—for the things you’re passionate about and for much-needed rest.
Though we all agree that that’s easier said than done. Far from easy. About 49% of employees say they’re burned out from their jobs. And when the Great Resignation descended upon us, job hunters looked for work-life balance from potential employers.
Granted, many factors come into play when we try to achieve work-life balance. However, there are also many things you could do to work towards a healthy equilibrium. Let’s count the ways:
Let’s start strong by saying that there’s no “perfect” work-life balance. The goal is not to clock out on time every day, spend the remaining hours with friends and family, and then turn all the lights off by 11 PM. You’ll only strain yourself reaching for this ideal. And you’ll only feel terrible when you fail.
There are days when you have to render more time at work, but there are also days when you have more time to pursue the things you love. It’s healthy to acknowledge that balance is achieved over time, not each time.
What’s important is that, in the long run, you still feel fulfilled in all aspects of your life.
Maximize your time off
Moving on to the actionable items. The first thing on the list is to make the most of your vacation days.
Take a look at the sobering numbers. In 2019, 768 million vacation days were left unused by American workers. About 55% of employees said they didn’t maximize their allotted time off. And all those unused vacation days amounted to $65.5 billion in lost benefits.
Think of it this way: no one’s benefitting from your unused vacation days. So whether it’s a short staycation at a local hotel, a three-week trip to Europe, or just a one-day time off to attend a local bazaar, use your vacation days.
And when you’re on your vacation, make sure to unplug.
Set healthy boundaries
Did you check your work email on your last vacation? Guilty? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. A 2019 LinkedIn survey showed that nearly 60% of workers performed job duties when they were on vacation.
But just because everyone’s doing it, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Setting boundaries is a pillar of work-life balance. It’s not unreasonable to unplug when you’re out of (the virtual) office.
- Use rest days for rest. Your vacation days are meant to be spent away from the hustle and bustle.
- Unplug outside work hours. Unplugging isn’t just for vacations. Once you clock out, focus on your life outside of work.
- Learn to say “no.” When you’re at work, time management and prioritization are golden skills. Some tasks deserve your immediate attention. Others will have to wait.
Care for yourself
Health—physical and mental—is essential to work-life balance. A healthy body will help you fight stress and enable you to do what’s demanded of your many roles.
One last piece of advice: baby steps. We don’t achieve balance in one fell swoop. It all starts with little changes here and there: using more vacation days, installing time management apps, buying better bed linen, or writing more “I’m out of the office” emails.
As long as we remain consistent, we’ll achieve balance. Even if it comes in increments.