Work-life balance is a relatively new concept that seeks to find a balance between work and lifestyle (meaning relationships, health, fun, relaxation and personal care), with the ultimate benefit being one’s happiness.
It used to be easy to separate the two. You went to your job, worked your 40 hours, and you left your job at work when you went home. But all that is different now. Today, several factors come into play:
1. Technology. Practically everyone is reachable after hours or on weekends via phone or email. This can be good occasionally, but many people have become accustomed to being connected to work even then they’re not on the job; in fact, many employers expect such availability. Some researchers believe it’s very easy for a company to control their employees by giving them smart phones and thus openly encouraging them to be reachable after hours or on weekends.
Unfortunately, this comes at a cost of precious family time, relaxation, chores, hobbies and self-care activities like exercise. This is stressful enough; compound that with resentment. Employees quickly tire of never having a real day off; and since much off-hours work is not compensated, they build resentment at working for free.
The companies end up paying the price for overworked employees. Exhaustion and resentment lead to burnout, fatigue, poor performance, terrible productivity, apathy, frequent absenteeism – even alcoholism and substance abuse.
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2. Job identification. Many people identify with their career and the more they work it, the more it becomes who they are and the boundary between work and ‘life’ blurs or becomes invisible. People whose jobs are merely a means to a paycheck take their work home far less than people who are heavily vested in their careers. Even if the job is one that a person loves very much, it is still important to take a break from it. Otherwise, a lot of life doesn’t get lived…
3. Escape. Family life and relationships can be hard, and it’s not uncommon for a person to hide behind their work just to avoid conflict and tension at home.
4. Finances. Unfortunately, our “get ahead,” consumerist society encourages a lifestyle of overspending; and that requires more money. Many people want desperately to work less and be home more, but financial pressures cause them to work overtime or several jobs just to pay for their lifestyle.
Even “self-inflicted workaholism” (working excessive hours by choice, not necessity) comes with great sacrifice. A 40-hour workweek used to be the norm; now, 60-70 hour workweeks are considered normal (where they used to be considered workaholism). That’s 20-30 hours a week – an entire extra day per week – that is NOT spent on relationships, kids, hobbies/passions and self-care.
How many people are affected by a work-life conflict?
Studies suggest that as many as 1.7 million Americans believe they spend too much time working, and feel that their quality of life suffers as a result. When your job is stressful and you work excessively, you carry that stress into your personal life – in essence, you are taking your job home with you even if you’re not actually working it, because your thoughts are preoccupied with your job and the anticipation of stress in the upcoming days, particularly over the weekend when Monday is looming like a huge monster.
Most people who feel they work excessive hours agree that their health has suffered. Excessive work leads to stress. Stress negatively impacts overall well-being. Overworked people complain of reduced sexual performance, frequent backache and headaches, increased weight, susceptibility to disease, persistent insomnia and constant fatigue. Psychological problems are common too, manifesting as irritability, anxiety, depression, insecurity and difficulty concentrating.
And yet, many just don’t say NO to being chronically overworked. Why?
In part, there is somewhat of a stigma attached to not being “Superman” or “Superwoman” and admitting that one CAN NOT DO IT ALL. Both men and women suffer from overwork, not just parents of small children. However, young parents today often perceive traditional gender roles as dangerous – given the 50% divorce rate in the USA alone, mothers who choose to stay at home and raise children can set themselves up for financial disaster should they ever divorce – so many young couples are choosing to do it all – both being hands-on parents and holding down full time jobs. Since parenting is a full time job in itself, there is often simply no time left for romance or personal time, and everybody ends up being stressed out and exhausted.
How to Get Your Life Back
1. Set boundaries. We have become so used to immediately answering phones, texts and emails. But…
…if it’s work-related, and you’re not working, don’t open that email; don’t answer the phone; don’t return the text. Your personal time is precious and it is not to be abused. Turn off your mobile devices and be at peace.
Talk to your boss. Explain that you give 100% to your job when you’re at work and you need to recharge your batteries and give 100% to yourself and your family when you are not at work. If your boss decides that someone else will easily fill your shoes because they ARE willing to be used like this – then you are better off anyway. There is a tremendous amount of work available online. If you’re creative, you don’t need to be stuck working in your town. In this age of globalization, you can work virtually, from anywhere… and when your work is done, you just shut off the computer and go have some fun!
2. ENJOY your time OFF. Your family/significant other knows when you’re working even if you try to hide it, and the fact that you’re not paying attention to them does not go unnoticed. Give them the quality attention they deserve!
3. Use the Silva Method to increase your self-esteem and confidence to the point where you will not compromise your personal time. Self-mastery will help you control your response to your boss’s demands and creative visualization will help you begin creating the ideal life – including the ideal mix of work and “life.”
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