Are you the corporate warrior?
It’s easy to get into a routine nowadays, isn’t it? Working hours are raising each year and peak at more than 55 per week in the US. In Europe, the situation is similar and stress at work increased by 30% in the past decade according to psychologists. If one can’t achieve the so-called work-life balance, periods of frustration, self-doubt, and failure are ahead.
The times of 9-to-5 are long gone. Our parents and grandparents don’t understand why we spend so much time at work and answer emails during the family dinner. For their generations, 5 o’clock meant ‘’it’s my time now, no more work!’’ Those times are long gone and the problem is becoming bigger. The advance in technology is the main factor that brought the concerns about the quality of work and its relation to personal life to the table. The good thing is that the world realizes it and companies try to implement work-life balance into their culture by providing a number of perks.
Is your company framing the truth about offering work-life balance?
Work-life balance means different things to different people. Stop and think: ‘’The definition of work-life balance is ________.’’ Fill the blank with how you’d describe it before you move on with reading. Now let me tell you a story. See if you can relate to it.
A friend of mine who lives in Germany recently joined a huge pharmaceutical company. After her first week at work, we had a long Skype call so she could tell me everything about it.
She said that the office is brand new and there is everything I can possibly imagine. They have a gym. They have a kitchen where the chefs prepare more than 7 dishes every day, 3 types of salads and some healthy snacks for a few bucks. She now doesn’t have to cook because the food is cheap and she’s been buying it for home.
Then she continued talking about the bathrooms. She explained there is everything you need – showers, freshly washed towels, shampoos, body lotions and all is neat and perfectly clean. Oh, and the best thing is the kinder-garden! They’ve been thinking about a baby with her husband, and now it might be the perfect moment, right?
I was very happy for her and deep inside even a bit jealous. Her life and work seemed perfectly balanced now. She can work out before work, have a shower there, eat cooked food without having to cook. Wouldn’t you want to work in such a company?
Nowadays, many corporations do the same. They provide benefits that excite us from the very beginning. But what if the whole idea is for you to stay at work longer? You can eat healthily, your child is taken care of and you can even take a shower!
‘’The commercial corporations are inherently designed to get as much out of you as they can. It’s in their DNA, even the well-intentioned companies’’ – Brent Barootes
After her first three months at the company, I talked to my friend again. She mentioned the company introduced yet another benefit – they can now leave their pets at the office! She’s been staying at work longer now.
Personally, I don’t want to become an office rat! Even though I work for a company that promotes work-life harmony, I decided to address the issue of finding true work-life balance. After reading dozens of articles and reports, I outlined 5 steps we all need to follow in order to secure work-life balance. What I found out might surprise you!
1. Check how much time you really spend working
On the one hand, we all enjoy the ‘’benefits’’ employers provide us with. On the other hand, it becomes a nightmare, as we spend even more time at the office, which leads to spending less time doing what we enjoy with the ones we love.
Take life into your own hands. Of course, enjoy the perks your job offers, but draw the line in the sand at some point.
What you need to do? To get the ball rolling, take a piece of paper and write down the answer to the following:
a) How does your average day look? Calculate your time and outline how and where you spend it.
b) How would you love your day to look like? Outline the categories of your life you want to be better at.
c) Mix the two and create a strategy. What do you need to do in order to feel fulfilled in each of your life categories?
Be realistic and approach this task in a balanced way. Remember that you will always have to compromise and make choices on a daily basis. What are the priorities in your life right now? Whatever it is, commit to it. Find your rhythm. Also, be flexible. As life goes on, your plans will change depending on the needs of your family and work.
2. Forget about balance. It’s all about harmony. Surprise!
Since a young age, we strive for progress. We want to get into our dream university, which means staying up late studying. Then, in the first years of our career, we continue staying up till late and working harder than others in order to outperform them. As life goes on, we try to gain more and more and achieve success.
‘’Nowadays, too many people work long hours at the jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.’’ – Nigel Marsh
At this point of your life, you probably know that the way to success is difficult. On top of everything, you have the caring wife, husband, mom who keeps telling you ‘’you need some rest’’, ’’you need to see us more’’. This only adds to the stress. Now you don’t only think about how much work you have to do, but you try to find ways of achieving the balance. The mental battle of how much time you’re devoting to a particular area in your life expands.
Here’s the deal. Work-life balance is impossible. What you should try is to switch from trying to achieve work-life balance and focus on creating work-life harmony. Integrate your work into your life. Stop thinking of work and life as separated things and think about them as one.
What do you need to do? Viva technology! Smartphones, tablets, IPads, emails, live chats. As much as technology could stress us out, it is a great tool to help us achieve work-life harmony. While you’re at the gym, you can answer a few emails, you can write a blog post, you can read a book, etc. You can do all that while traveling to work on public transport or while on holiday with your family. Be creative and innovative in finding ways to accomplish your tasks while doing other things in your life.
If you need an evening with zero distractions, leave your phone in the car after coming home. Don’t feel obliged to be always on. Also, stay in the moment. When at work, don’t lament about the fact that you missed a family gathering the night before. While playing with your kid, don’t think about the amount of work that awaits you tomorrow. Stay in the moment.
These 8 Ted Talks will change the way you think about work-life harmony forever.
3. Start living…NOW
Humans are funny creatures. We have the ability to focus so much on the future while forgetting to live in the present. If you’re shaking your head left to right, be honest with yourself. Has there been a time in your life when you thought – I can’t wait to get out of school and get the job so I can take care of myself and do what I love?
Then when you have THAT job, it becomes your life. You tell yourself, I’ll have a life when I finish this big project. I’ll have a life after my kids grow up and leave home. I’ll have a life after I retire. You need to wake up now and save yourself from falling into this trap.
What do you need to do? Start living the life you dream of and don’t let your employer drive your daily schedule. Design your life and start with the little things. The change towards a happier life can be as simple as finishing work an hour earlier and taking your kid/partner to dinner.
‘’Don’t wait for a perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect.’’ – Jocelyn Shaffer
Find best tips and tricks on work-life harmony from Richard Branson here.
4. Be smart when choosing your employer
Remember my friend’s story from the beginning? Many corporations that seem to enable work-life harmony are actually misleading. When choosing your future employer, focus on other things.
Instead of a child-care facility, do they offer a half day off every month to spend with your kids? Instead of having a gym in the company building, do they offer a membership card in a gym outside of work? Are the employees being stimulated to develop their full potential? These are not monetary benefits, but they are instilling freedom into your work life.
How do we do it at Enhancv? I don’t like bragging. But I have to tell you what work-life harmony looks like here at Enhancv. We have breakfast together every Monday at the office. While we eat, each team presents past week’s achievements and the upcoming week’s plan. We go to Ving Tsun classes together. While traveling there, we have casual one-on-ones in the car.
We travel together and do retrospection and quarterly planning. The last time it was Venice in Italy.
Check out other activities that promote work-life harmony at Enhancv here.
5. Keep going, even if it seems impossible
If you stand in front of a high mountain, it seems difficult to climb it at first. Once you start walking up, though, the challenge suddenly becomes much easier. Events or situations don’t trouble you, how you look at them does. 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted by the way our brains process reality. If you are at the very beginning of your journey to a happier life, keep that in mind.
People who study work-life harmony for years, still struggle to keep it. It takes time, but it’s possible. As the COO at Facebook Sheryl Sandberg says, you can never have it all at once, but you can bring the element of your personal and professional life into close alignment to achieve ‘’as much harmony as possible.’’
What do you need to do? The rule number one here is to take it easy. Start with a small list of things you’d like to improve in your life. Start changing your habits one by one as doing everything at once will be chaotic.
Also, don’t wait until tomorrow, next week, after the big project’s done. Start today. Whether it is by leaving work one hour early or finally stop trying to please everyone and loosen up. Remember that it’s the little things that matter the most.
If you’d like to read about other executives and the ways they manage work-life harmony, have a look here.
Back to you!
Was any of these lessons about the so-called work-life balance surprising to you? I’d love to hear your feedback or observations in the comments below.
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