A quick scan of the available literature on work-life balance covers a multitude of research, including everything from brain functions on adequate sleep to romantic implications. Geez. And most thought it was just another trendy business catchphrase. Not so.
Although this seems to be one of the more difficult reasons to admit you’re quitting, people are starting to put more and more stock in the realization that they can have it both ways—a great career and a happy family. Especially with today’s two-party breadwinners, with technology supporting distance work and with a sharper awareness of the physiological implications of stress, people are demanding balance. How can you tell if it’s missing? You can start with your health.
If your “work, people or culture are unhealthy . . . it has a negative impact on us physically and mentally”.For example, you might be:
- Gaining weight? Studies have shown that an unhappy work life robs you of the energy you need to make good dietary choices and to exercise.
- Feeling stressed? Workplace stress doesn’t just come from being too busy at work or working too many hours; it’s also a direct response to being in a state of negative affect while at work.
- How’s your sex life? One of the worst things about hating your job is that it doesn’t stop at the end of the workday. Researchers have found a clear link between a good relationship with your spouse and health.
- Having trouble sleeping? Frustrations can follow you home and then, if you’re miserable at work, you might find it harder to fall asleep or just not sleep well at all.
- Do you get sick a lot? A study of unhappy nurses showed that they had a higher risk of being sick, and we’re talking about serious diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Another complication of negative work-life balance is that, quite obviously, since life is involved, the problems don’t stop with you. Not being able to spend time with family, missing important family engagements, and simply not being there when you are home take a terrible toll on happiness.
Options for coping with a negative work life balance
While you probably can’t single-handedly change the operating culture of your workplace, you can try—before giving up entirely—to make some balance changes in your own corner of the world.
- • Manage your time better. Carefully log and then evaluate what you do and see if you can reduce some things (especially those that cause you the most headaches). For example, supervisors are often the worst at keeping all the work for themselves. Although that doesn’t sound particularly reasonable, it stems from not wanting or not knowing how to delegate. Take a course!
- • Minimize technology, especially if it drives you nuts. Here’s a question someone once asked in a time management course. If your mail delivery person came to your house every half-hour and put something in your mailbox, would you go out to get it every time? No? Then why do we allow our e-mail to take over our lives?
- • Schedule open hours just for interruptions. Doctors do it and so do college professors. It’s called office hours. When preparing your next day’s activities, schedule in at least an hour when you’re not expected to do anything. Then rest, think, take a walk, have a positive conversation, or undertake any other low-stress activity that won’t get you fired . . . but will help you balance your energy throughout the day.
If none of these options are possible and you can’t think of any other ways to enjoy both your work and your life, then you just might want to start looking for an employer who recognizes the value of that combination. This will ultimately help settle a negative work-life balance.