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Is Great Work/Life Balance an Impossible Dream?

In a world where “Busy” has become the accepted response to “How are you doing?”, a large percentage of the work force struggles with the concept of Work/Life Balance. Employees are spending too much time at their desks, whether it be physically or just mentally, and their relationships, health, and ultimately their careers are suffering.

What Does an Ideal Work/Life Balance Look Like?

It’s hard to provide a hard and fast definition. If you’re married with children, your version of balance will look a lot different than a single person. The real question is: what would make you happy?

If your job is so satisfying that you don’t mind working 60 hours a week as long as you have time to go to the gym or hit Happy Hour, then that’s balance. If you want to spend the weekend at Little League games and dance recitals or have dinner with your family every night at 6 pm, your balance will be different.

The Importance of Work/Life Balance

Working too many hours and sacrificing time with loved ones and self-care can lead to a variety of health problems. Stress leads to a lowered immune system and can wreak havoc on the body. Not to mention the stress on your family! Yes, you want to provide for your loved ones but not at the expense of quality time.

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Work/life balance is not only important for the individual but for the company as a whole. Employees with lowered immune systems take more sick days, leading to decreased productivity and even less productivity when they don’t call in sick and end up infecting the entire office. Work burnout leads to higher turnover rates which decrease productivity and increase costs.

Signs You May Be Experiencing Work Burnout

Recognizing burnout is the first step to treating it. Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms?

  • Do you have very little patience with co-workers or clients?
  • Is it difficult for you to get out of bed in the morning knowing that you have to go to work?
  • Do you feel as if your energy level has gone down? How about sleep quality?
  • Are you no longer proud of your workplace achievements?

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Strategies for Achieving Work/Life Balance

Considered to be as elusive as the unicorn, work/life balance is attainable. Here’s how:

  • Figure out what matters most. Yes, your career is important to you, but it is more important than your family?
  • Track your time. How many hours do you spend working? If you used your time more efficiently, could you decrease those working hours and spend more time with your loved ones?
  • Create (and uphold) boundaries. Are you answering the phone or responding to emails during family time? When you are off the clock, be off the clock.
  • Schedule time for self-care. Your physical, mental, and emotional health shouldn’t suffer in the name of your career.

Employees that strive to maintain work/life balance are happier, healthier, and more productive, and they have better relationships. So the next time your cell phone rings at dinner or an email demands your attention, put the phone away and focus on what matters most.