Is a Work/Life Balance Realistic?
Striking a balance between professional and personal commitments is a common dilemma for many of today's workers. Lean staff levels and rising workloads require longer hours on the job, making it difficult to juggle deadlines and dinner plans, presentations and trips to the gym, business travel and family vacations.
In fact, a recent survey of workers by Robert Half International suggests flexible schedules is the benefit employees value most. The reason? Increased control of their time enables individuals to balance competing demands.
If it seems there are not enough hours in the day to complete your work and engage in outside interests, you're probably already focused on improving your work/life balance. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving the best of both worlds, but the following tips can help you establish a better equilibrium between your professional and personal responsibilities:
Negotiate a change.
Many companies today recognize that family-friendly policies help them attract and retain talented employees. If you like your current job but need more flexibility, see if it is possible to negotiate a compressed workweek, a part-time position, or job-sharing or telecommuting opportunities. In your discussion, give specific examples of how modifying your current work situation will increase your efficiency and productivity. Also research your employer's policies the company may already have practices in place that can be adapted to fit your particular case.
Explore alternate options.
Some careers are simply more demanding than others. If you need additional time for yourself or your family, consider pursuing one that is less stressful and more flexible. Alternately, work with your current employer to identify a different position within the firm that entails fewer hours and obligations. But keep in mind that there may be things you give up, such as a higher salary or greater responsibilities, in return for the less-demanding role.
Stop and enjoy the activities and people around you, both inside and outside the office. Whenever possible, schedule time between meetings and leave your evenings free so you can refuel throughout and at the end of each day. Resist the urge to bring too many projects home over the weekends. Distancing yourself from work-related activities will give you time to recharge so you're more alert and productive when Monday rolls around.
It's human nature to try to accomplish too much in too little time. Identify ways to simplify your life. For example, eliminate the clutter in your office; an organized work area will save you time sorting through papers and allow you to work more efficiently. Or perhaps you are juggling too many social commitments outside of work. Try to focus on those that are most meaningful to you.
Take charge and develop a prioritized list of tasks that must be accomplished each day. You'll not only enjoy the satisfaction of crossing off tasks as they are completed but also avoid feeling overwhelmed. In addition, be sure to set aside time for unforeseen events. Having a contingency plan for emergencies will enable you to continue with business as usual in the midst of a crisis.
No matter how efficient you are, there is only so much you can accomplish in one day. If you're a manager, make sure that you are delegating appropriately instead of trying to do everything yourself. Doing so will reduce your workload and help your staff build their skills.
View balance as a moving target.
Remember that achieving the proper work/life balance is an ongoing process that depends on your current goals and responsibilities. For example, if you've received a promotion at work, consider skipping previously scheduled social functions to adjust to your new role. Similarly, if you add a personal activity to your agenda, you may need to lighten your load at work.
It's possible to achieve your professional goals without sacrificing your personal life. Likewise, you can realize personal dreams without giving up a fulfilling career. Your success in both areas depends largely on your ability to define a balance that works best for you, negotiate a reasonable arrangement with your employer and accepting responsibility for making adjustments as circumstances change.
Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 330 offices throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.