Work to live, don’t live to work - Post 2: #WorkLifeBalance blog series
As I mentioned in my previous post in this #WorkLifeBalance blog series, I have been working from a home office for the past 12 years and it has certainly had its ups and downs.
When I first started working from home, I was transitioning into a new role and a new team, so I had a lot of work to do to get up to speed. While I spent some time in the “real” office on training, the majority of my time was spent at my home office.
I learned very quickly that a healthy and sustainable routine does not come easily. I was eating badly and exercise was almost non existent; two extremely important elements of work-life balance that I’ll discuss in detail in this series of posts.
Looking back, it is clear that I embraced this lifestyle way too hard. I was waking up ten minutes before work started (admittedly I still do from time to time) and going to bed way too late. I was also working very odd hours due to having to overlap two time zones, and the consequence of that was a non-existent social life.
What does work-life balance mean?
Work-life balance is regularly spoken about, but not many people take the time to really talk about what it means to them because it is a very personal subject. For me, it means that during my personal time, I must be truly disconnected from work – both mentally and physically.
No matter what your personal definition is, one of the key aims of work-life balance is to manage stress. While stress is something we all experience, we rarely think about the effects it has on us. It harms us mentally and physically, makes us irritable and can damage relationships. And let’s be honest, no one wants to work with someone who’s chronically unhappy. Don’t be that person that everyone avoids at the office Christmas party.
Tipping the scales?
It should go without saying that life is not all about work. Dedication and doing a good job are one thing, but obsessing and stressing about work is not healthy. Unfortunately, we all experience pressure to impress our bosses and colleagues and we put undue pressure on advancing our careers. Coupled with the fact that technology gives us the ability to work 24/7 from anywhere in the world, makes it a trap that’s easy to fall into.
A few signs you should look out for…
Make sure that you identify and acknowledge the obvious signs that your work-life balance is out of whack:
- Becoming increasingly agitated or impatient with others
- Feeling overwhelmed or despondent
- Having problems sleeping (more on this in another post)
- Physical conditions such as shortness of breath, constant ‘butterflies’ in the stomach, or chest pains (Please do see a doctor immediately if you feel experience any of these symptoms).
Your goal is to recognize your personal signs and break the cycle before it becomes detrimental and potentially ‘breaks’ you.
How do we break out of that cycle?
The practical steps that I try (and sometimes fail) to follow are:
- Leaving my office and closing the door. It’s important that there’s a physical separation between work and personal space.
- Stop checking work emails after hours. I can still be available for emergencies but must avoid seeking out work.
- Engaging in activities that require me to be fully present. It’s vital to spend quality time with family and give yourself time to engage in hobbies and play sports.
The 5 by 5 rule
The 5 by 5 rule is golden to me (the origin of it is difficult to find though):
I would argue that 5 years is a long time in today’s fast paced world, but the principle holds. Make sure you create a balance between work and personal life, and then focus your energy on what really matters in each of them.
What does my colleague have to say?
“I like to divide my hour lunch breaks into 20 minute segments: 20 minutes to eat, 20 minutes spend outside, and 20 minutes to relax.
I like to meal prep my lunches, which saves time during the day. Depending on the weather, my outside time is spent walking my dogs or hanging out in the backyard to get some sun. During my relaxation time I’ll either take a power nap or do some stretching to clear my mind and pick up a little energy for the afternoon.
These times are always flexible – especially if the weather is great, I might spend my entire break outside – but the only hard rule is no screens: no computer, no TV, and no phone.”
I’ve been doing this just about my entire working career at Striata and it works great for me.
Keep your eyes on your inbox or subscribe below for my next post in this series, which is about your working environment.