We’ve all heard the phrase “work-life balance” (WLB)—and while many of us truly get it, others are so busy trying to keep their heads above water that they never pause to figure out how to build a true work-life balance into their career track. I’m certainly no expert on WLB, but (as you might suspect) I do have some firsthand experience with what it means and why it’s necessary.
I think WLB has multiple data points that add to the overall quality of life. (Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about, anyway?) Here are a few non-negotiables.
Work for Someone You Enjoy Working For. This is a no-brainer. The worst case scenario is spending one-third of your work week with someone you absolutely loathe. Maybe he or she never recognizes your work or is just too busy to care. Maybe (and I’ve seen this one) your boss has awkward social skills and is just a terrible communicators which in turn makes him or her a lousy leader. I was in this situation a few years ago, working for a toxic leader who completely erased my working-for-jerks tolerance level. Life’s tough enough without the added stress of an elevated heart rate every time you walk through your workplace door dreading yet another day in paradise.
Enjoy Family Time After Work. If there’s an expectation that you will be available 24/7 to answer emails, respond to text messages, or take work home on a regular basis, you should be asking yourself, “is this as good as it gets?” I understand that every now and then urgent matters crop up during your downtime, but that should be the exception and never the rule. I know one C-suite executive who loves to share her passion for weekend work (i.e., sending weekend emails to her staff) because she likes to guilt her team into reading and replying to her questions. The solution? Turn off your work-related devices at night/on weekends (if possible) and choose not to engage in other people’s psychoses.
Break up Your Midday Routine. I do this religiously every week, and sometimes twice a week if schedules permit. I call my wife or a friend and plan lunch somewhere convenient for both of us, just to break up the craziness of my day by spending lunch with a person instead of at my desk. It’s a great way to get away from everything for an hour or so and give yourself a treat. Breaking routines is a healthy way to enjoy life. When lunch doesn’t work, stop by a local shopping center or district and walk around for awhile; or visit your local bookstore and lose yourself in reading something interesting (non-work-related). You’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on your afternoon, instead of just going through the motions every day.
Take Time Off. If you earn time off, you should use it. Every paid-time-off day you have should be used that year, so forget about rollover days to build value in your PTO account. If you have flex time, take long weekends or half-day Fridays when possible. Leave your laptop and the list of unfinished to-do’s—they’ll be there when you return refreshed and ready to take on the world. That’s not so hard, right?
Remember that as the leader of your organization your every move is being watched by those who look up to you. The speed of the leader (or in this case their habits) will be emulated by members of your team, so encourage your employees to take time off. Get everyone to submit a list of vacation days in advance, and make sure you talk to those who choose to work instead. A happier employee is a more productive employee, and that’s a good thing.
Find your WLB and you will change the way you feel about waking up and going to work every day. One more thing: once you master WLB, you may find that your job is much more fulfilling. Give it a shot!
Tim Tolan is a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (843) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at www.healthcare-informatics.com/tim_tolan.