Work-life balance in the business world has become a meaningful way to achieve higher satisfaction with our work and personal lives. But when we hear about flexible hours, co-working situations, and idiosyncratic weekly schedules that don’t apply to our needs, what does work-life balance mean for us? It’s important to take a moment for self-review and consider what you value in your personal and professional lives, and then contextualize that for the modern workplace culture.
Focus On Your Needs
Work-life balance is about changing the structure of your life in a way that makes us more productive at home and at work. You need to focus on your own needs and life demands to understand where you can change for improvement.
What works for your co-workers is not necessarily going to work for you. Once you stop comparing yourself to those around you, you can start to get at the core of what you want from a work-life balance.
The Two Basic Paths to Balance
For many people, the idea of balance is a straightforward division of time between the workplace and home. If daycare and work start at the same time, something has to give. Arranging a late arrival to work coupled with a later dismissal might make sense.
For other people, the concept of balance is more fluid. Checking in on work emails at home and taking time during the workday for personal matters are a different preference for balance.
The two paths reflect different needs that acknowledge not only time schedules, but working methods that enhance performance rather than demand it based on time periods.
Figuring Out Your Balance
The inescapable fact of work-life balance means paying attention to your life schedule. You need to clarify what you need to accomplish before deciding how to do it.
Take time at the beginning of the week to review your schedule. At first, the task will feel like another demand on your time. Once you get into the habit, though, the time spent planning will go down considerably.
Don’t think of your work schedule and your home schedule as two different things. Keep one calendar for work and home – not two separate ones – so that you can see at a glance where your time is spent.
Take A Cue from Millennials
Generation Y often has an unfair reputation for being entitled slackers in the workplace. The truth of the matter is they view work-life balance differently from traditional models. They not only care about their work – they want to care.
Millennials want their work to be meaningful. Work that isn’t meaningful takes time away from activities that they view as more important. Meaningful is about knowing what they do for their employers has value. By the same token, they want their employers to recognize their personal needs have value, too.
Those that want a fluid work-life balance want something that reflects their lives. Studies show millennials are willing to work 12 hours straight to meet a project goal, but they want a clear picture of why it’s necessary. In exchange for that commitment, they also want the ability to manage social engagements and personal matters during work hours in ways that don’t interfere with their own or other’s performance.
If you’re looking for a work-life setup similar to that of this generation, follow their example. Make sure you feel that the work you do is fulfilling by asking for more information when necessary and understanding the bigger picture. You may end up putting in later hours, but then you can also feel more comfortable taking days off to work remotely or integrating more of your personal life into your job.
Establishing Balance Takes Communication
When we ask for flexibility from our employers, they will likely feel they can ask for it, too. Factor in unplanned time periods and use them for work or leisure. If you create a strictly regimented schedule, you leave yourself no room for error, which will only lead to stress and dissatisfaction.
Work-life balance doesn’t happen without employers and employees making it work as a team. Open discussions with employers on how you can be more productive brings both sides into the conversation to achieve the best balance for everyone.