It seems the hot topic of the century is ‘work-life balance’. Millennials want it, Gen X leaders don’t always understand it. But as millennials begin to fill our workforce and take over leadership, they’re changing the way we think about work, responsibilities and our health.
Work-life balance is the idea that a person can spend their time working and achieving professional success while taking care of their physical and mental health, spending time with their families and pursuing hobbies outside of work. Gone are the days of workers accepting long hours for years on end with little time off or reward, in an effort to find a way up the career ladder. And while many millennials are waiting longer to get married and raise children, that doesn’t mean they don’t have interests and priorities outside of work.
What seems to have started as a millennial workplace trend has turned into a heavily researched and debated topic across all sectors. Work-life balance is better for our mental and physical health. When we leave work at work, we are less stressed, more focused and happier. Working hard during business hours and then letting it go while at home gives us the freedom to explore hobbies, get exercise and build relationships.
Not only are employees demanding more vacation, flexible work hours and communication boundaries, many companies have built work-life balance into their cultures. Each year there are articles about the best cities for finding balance and career paths that make it possible.
Balance can vary.
Work-life balance is definitely attainable. However, it looks different for every person and it’s hardly ever perfect. If you’re serious about your career, there will be times you’re working late, taking calls in the evening or skipping lunch. On the other hand, if you have family or other obligations, there may be times you need to leave early to care for a sick family member or see your child’s t-ball game. The idea is that all of these things balance out over time, if they don’t in a single day or week.
Find your balance.
So how do you make it happen? First of all, set goals for yourself and make those goals known to others like your boss and family members. That way, as you make the call on what’s important each day, those around you will understand your decisions and help hold you accountable.
Second, learn to manage the time you commit to each obligation. Make to-do lists, use a calendar, whatever it takes to make sure you’re making the most of the time you spend at work.
Lastly, understand the “balance” shifts constantly, with each new phase of your career or personal life. If you are starting a new job or have earned a promotion, you can expect to spend more time in the office or answering emails to hit the ground running. But expect it to flip the other way when a family member is sick or you’re planning for a child. There are times in your life that work will need more of your attention and times when your personal life will demand the extra time and energy. If you put the time in for each and make your goals clear to those around you, you can stay on task and make it through each new triumph or challenge.
Keep in mind this “balance” looks different for everyone. Understand what balance looks like for you and don’t settle for less. Once you set boundaries and expectations, respect them. And respect the boundaries set by others.