Work-life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation). By nature of its definition, work-life balance will be different for everyone.
What sorts of schedule fits for a better balance? A shorter work day? More overtime pay? Flex time? More paid time off? Unlimited paid time off? There is an interesting experiment going on in Sweden testing out a six-hour work day.
This is a unique idea in that it will give people more time to devote to the things they enjoy doing, in turn resulting in a happier, healthy workforce. The obvious downside to this is a lack of presence in the workplace, which may be more bearable in some industries than others. This exacerbates the problem of how to find the right amount of work time and play time and underscores how complex it really is to find the correct mix.
For everyone in the workplace, it is important to take breaks. It has been shown that constant work without breaks does not make you more productive. It makes you less productive, since you are getting burned out and less effective as the day goes on.
In interviews I ask the question, “How do you stay motivated when there is a project or task that gets boring or is mundane?” More often than not, the answers are the same: “I think about the end goal of why I am doing this” or “I take small breaks or step away to refocus.”
People know they need to step away, but they don’t always do it. Whatever it is that you can do to step away — take a small walk, chit-chat with a coworker or stretch — it will help you be more productive.
Diverse hobbies, diverse solutions
It’s important to have a diverse group of employees, with diverse hobbies. For example:
A comedian, a pool player, a wild game hunter, a golfer, a runner, a gardener, a yogi and a motocross rider all walk into a grocery store. No, it’s not the start of a really bad joke, but what could they possibly have in common?
They all are employees at a local grocery store and work side-by-side toward a common goal of giving the best guest experience each and every day. What’s interesting is that they each have hobbies outside of work, so they bring unique perspectives into the workforce, thus bringing different ideas and solutions every day.
When they are at work together, they are on the same team. Sometimes those hobbies cross over and sometimes they don’t, but those hobbies are what make life exciting for that employee. It is what they look forward to participating in when they leave work.
Having time to do those things is important to those employees, so make sure they are getting the time they need to enjoy the “play hard” side of work hard/play hard. Ask about their hobbies, but be aware that some people want to keep those hobbies private. Use your judgement and don’t pry if the door isn’t open.
Take your vacation!
Some people feel it is a badge of honor if they never take a vacation day. It turns out that is a growing trend and we should slow it down so we don’t have an even more burned-out workforce than we already do.
In a June 27 column, Gail Rosenblum of the Minneapolis Star Tribune explained a recent survey done by Project: Time Off found that in 2015, 55 percent of employees didn’t use all of their vacation time. It was the first time more than 50 percent reported that to be the case.
Why is it good to take vacation and enjoy your hobbies?
- More money back into the economy (the study found that if all vacation was used, approximately $223 billion would have been pumped back into the economy)
- The study found that people who take 11 or more vacation days were more likely to receive a raise or bonus.
- As noted above, you need a break! Your brain will function better and you will be more refreshed to handle what may come at you.
To wrap this up, life outside of work is important. The relationships you build with people are important. The hobbies and activities that you take part in to enrich your life are important.
As life goes on and those that we love and care about pass, I find myself going to more and more funerals. It may be morbid to talk about it, but at none of the funerals I have attended recently did they talk about the deceased being “a great worker that was super quick at responding to emails” or “someone you could always count on to be at the office before you.”
Be challenged at work and care about your work, do it to the best of your ability every single day. But don’t forget to care about your life and attack it in the same fashion. Try something new or make time for an old friend. You are important, too.