The signs of poor work life balance are feeling overloaded, taken for granted, and drained. Working parents may become a little detached from the children and feel what they do is not good enough. So what causes this state of affairs and what can you do about it?
Cultural change and the work life balance
Until a few years ago professional workers who were obliged to take work home, set aside time there in order to get the work done when it would not impinge upon their personal life.
Since then technology has become more sophisticated. The "2015 Workplace Flexibility Study." was based on a survey in the USA. It found that 64% of managers expect their employees to be reachable outside of the office in their personal time. This trend has now reached Europe.
The lack of work life balance becomes more acute for parents, particularly mothers. This is because of the increase in their numbers in the workforce, together with the unwitting expectation that they will continue to shoulder most of the responsibilities of child-rearing and domesticity.
Self-care and the work life balance
Most of us know only too well that looking after oneself is crucial for health and well-being. This means time to get a proper night's rest - doctors recommend 7-8 hours: time to have a little regular physical exercise which helps to relieve stress: and time to renew batteries through being on one's own and having meaningful contact with family and friends.
These sound like the bare minimum for self-care. Yet, even these are under threat from the office email demanding some immediate response. How can one switch off one's mind from the demands of the world if one's smart phone is always switched on? And even if you do turn it off, you are likely to regularly turn it back on just to see if anything has turned up whilst it was off.
"Technology has expanded the 9-to-5 workday into the 24/7 workday, which has made it extremely difficult for employees to have personal time"
(Dan Schawbel, Founder of WorkplaceTrends.com)
Addictive technology and the work life balance
When people use this technology at work it can be adopted for their interests at home e.g. social media and use of search engines. Often a lot of this is in some way work-related e.g. professional networking, and information gathering. There is thus a blurred line between work responsibilities and personal life. The frequent use of Twitter, Facebook, Google etc at home can be so habit-forming as to even be seen as an addiction.
Fear and the work life balance
The fear is in missing something important through not being constantly connected. What if a crisis occurred and they couldn't contact me? Or something happening which I feel I need to know about?
Often the fear is partly rational with some element of exaggeration. Is it really the end of the world if you don't respond to that enquiry during unsocial hours? Or to that international customer from another time zone? Unless you are on call and working for an emergency service, you are not going to respond to a text message during the middle of the night - or are you?
An underlying unreasonable fear may be one of catastrophic failure, making obvious mistakes, not meeting people's expectations, and being criticized. Why not replace this desire for faultlessness with being "good enough." After all no one is perfect.
Negotiation with the boss about work life balance
Re-negotiating boundaries should not be considered as negative. Rather, it is a way of affirming something about one's own self-worth and is a path to sanity. Saying 'no' to unreasonable demands can be an important first step in bargaining. One compromise deal might be not taking the work smart phone on holiday but giving your private phone number just to the boss on the understanding you may be called only in a dire emergency.
A reasonable boss, who values your work, may be willing to do a deal. If there is no organisational policy regarding a general flexibility for employees' work life balance, this may be just a private understanding only with you. Such a deal may or may not be at the cost of reducing your further advancement within the company.
Other managers, however, may be intransigent and refuse to compromise. And so it may not be possible to strike a compromise in favour of a better work life balance. In such a scenario you possibly will need to consider looking for another job where the need for worker flexibility is better understood and where work goals better resonate with you. However this could mean having to accept lower pay.
Staying attuned spiritually and the work life balance
One way of dealing with our fears is to get some perspective on them by getting in touch with the higher dimension to life.
With late night and Sunday opening, modern secular life doesn't allow for any special day of the week. Yet, according to the biblical legend, even God rested on the seventh day of creation! Perhaps we do need permission to keep one day for ourselves. A chance, without the ubiquitous smart phone, to get out into the fresh air, connect to nature, or listen to music. This creates space for personal reflection focusing on the deeper things of life: considering what really matters.
Look at what the world's religions teach about the importance of meditation and prayer. Such spiritual disciplines calm the spirit and help you focus less on mistakes and the bad things and instead remember what is going right and what it means to you.
"The unexamined life is not worth living." (Socrates)