Due to the serious pressures and demands placed upon us at work, many people today feel that attaining a work-life balance is nothing more than a modern myth.
For one, there is so much truth to the fact that many of us are working more hours than ever. Forty hours per week is a lxury – it’s not uncommon for people to work up to sixty hours a week, or even more. Add to that the long commutes to and from work, the stress that comes with building a family, or even getting some semblance of quality me-time. Not to mention the fact that the constant new developments of technology including smartphones, laptops, and tablets that blur the lines between personal time and work: it’s no surprise that striving for s work-life balance is one of the biggest challenges of the modern workforce.
But a Work-Life Balance is Not a Myth
You can make technology work for you. While it can be a double-edged sword, the very same devices, apps, and software that keep you tied to work 24/7 can, ironic as it sounds, set you free. The very rise of artificial intelligence software is actually supposed to help you get more done in less time, and using less resources – freeing you from being tethered to work without sacrificing productivity. You can also make productivity work for you by requesting to work remotely during certain days, and under specific circumstances. These days, more employers are already becoming amenable to these kinds of working arrangements provided you get the work done.
The Importance of Disconnecting: What the Science Says
A study conducted by Kansas State University researcher YoungAh Park says that constant connectivity through tablets, laptops, and smartphones is now the norm, but the disadvantage to this is that it allows work to spill over into our recovery time and makes relief from stress difficult.
Park has been studying how stress crosses over and affects personal relationships. She says that receiving unpleasant communication from coworkers or your boss will likely disrupt your behavior at home, which can influence the people you’re around. For example, she explains that if a spouse is suffering from work stress, it will affect their partner. If both are stressed out from work and none of them can recover from stress at home, the stresses will only accumulate at home. This is a situation that unfortunately many of us are too familiar with.
To mitigate this, Park suggests creating rules for information technologies and communication at home when work hours are over. Employees may also want to take the initiative to set build expectations to others about boundaries regarding work-related emails and texts that are outside business hours.
Work is just a part of life. Unless you have a trust fund, separating the two isn’t the reality most of the world has, but you can learn how to make the most of it. It’s also important to think about the kind of work you do: since you spend a good chunk of your time doing it, make sure that it’s something you enjoy, gives you purpose, and has meaning in your life.
Another thing to consider is what you’re actually spending your money on. Yes, there will always be bills, but think about what you buy. Do you love everything you purchase enough to continue working hard to ensure you can pay for it all? Are you making sure you balance the time that is needed to work in order to pay for the things you want? For some people, the solution to a work-life balance is simple: when you buy less, you can afford to work less and get more out of life.
But what are your values? Is it free time, more money in the bank, more clothes in your closet, more gadgets?
You can easily take on a job that will put more money in the bank, but it may come at a price. The price of mental health, taking you away from your family, and your happiness. Or you can take on a job that pays slightly less but will allow you time to nurture the values that are so important to you.
These are some of the difficult choices we have to make in order to achieve a work-life balance.
Even if technology can work for you, it’s also important to make a conscious effort to unplug. It’s necessary to close your laptop and mobile phone at times to be present in life and in the lives of the people you love. Striking the balance between work and quality of life isn’t impossible but it does require some effort.
Carve time out of your busy schedule to be engaged in the moment, whether it’s treating yourself to a massage, meditating, exercising, watching your son’s soccer game, or preparing a dinner for your family. It will make you a happier person, reduce the risk of burn out, and help you become more productive at work.