Working all hours says more about you than your employer. Ouch. That hurts to read, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth. No one tells you to check your emails just before you go to bed. Just like no one tells you to eat that piece of chocolate cake.
It’s totally legal to go for a walk at lunchtime. And it’s been scientifically proved that walking sends oxygen to the brain which in turn increases creativity. And productivity. That lunchtime walk is actually beneficial for you and your employer. So why do you equate working with being chained to the same chair all day and working hard with long working hours?
Technology now keeps us connected 24 hours a day and across time zones. We have less and less control over our lives. Some even sleep with their iPhones.
The challenge today is how to create balance AND have success. With less time to unplug and recharge, your wellbeing should be top of your list. Not something you only think about at the weekends.
What is work-life balance?
There are countless definitions available. I particularly like this definition.
The ability to enjoy each of four aspects of a person’s life: work, family, friends and self.
In other words, the demands of an employer shouldn’t overwhelm a person’s ability to enjoy a satisfying personal life. Another definition mentions the ‘prioritization’ between personal and professional activities in an individual’s life. But who’s in charge of the prioritization? You are.
I get that there are country-specific differences. Meaning you have to contend with norms, habits and the working culture of the society you live in. According to the World Economic Forum, the top 10 countries for the best work-life balance are interestingly all in Europe. Denmark, where I live, comes in third after The Netherlands and Italy at number one and two respectively. Yet I know several in my network who have a work-life balance issue.
You are in charge of your boundaries
There’s a fine balance between glowing health and busyness. It can easily be tipped. Sometimes you are too busy to notice. You are human. The fine balance is an art we’ll never quite perfect. And one you have to juggle continuously as unexpected activities, needs, illness, desires, and demands evade everyday life. Triggered by you, others and pandemics!
There are always clues you are on a collision course. Don’t ignore them!
Most bosses will happily extend deadlines or find extra resources. Especially if it’s rare for you to admit you need help.
It is possible to find value and meaning in balance. Trust me.
Your body keeps the score and will always win. If you neglect YOU, you pay for it. The price of treating yourself with blatant disregard is high. And never worth it. The four pillars of wellbeing are universal and include exercise, sleep, nutrition, and hydration. The ratio of what’s essential for you, will be different for someone else. Find your own minimum needs to keep healthy and adjust continuously as you listen to your body. Self-awareness is key.
Why can’t we learn from others via their experiences?
Lessons learned by others are splattered all over the internet. The Guardian newspaper has a special ‘lesson learned’ section. There are some painful stories. We all know someone who’s had, fighting or succumbed to a chronic illness. And I’m sure we all know a colleague who went down with stress.
Mental health is a hot topic and at the same time still a taboo. Firmly on the WHO’s agenda and included in the 17 UN sustainable development goals. Do you want to add to the statistics?
I’ve never equated workplace relevance and value to long hours. Like many, I’ve been eager for more responsibility, a higher salary, and new challenges. I worked hard and smart. I realized early on that working longer hours were not actually making me achieve more. I get to the point when I’m too tired to care.
It’s a fact. The more you work, the less effective you are. You are only convincing yourself you are producing quality.
Work addiction is real. And unfortunately, we inhabit a culture that equates work with identity and self-worth. You have to work extra hard to avoid being part of this culture and create your own boundaries. More is not better though.
A recent conversation with a friend went like this during our end-of-year catch-up call.
Friend: ‘I really can’t do those 12-16 hour-days anymore.’
Me: ‘Well don’t.’
Friend: ‘I have to.’
Remember, you always have a choice. And you choose who you give your best energy to.
The consequences of burning the candle at both ends are dire. You burn mental, physical, and soul energy. You lose touch with your basic needs as well as your inner desires.
Be careful who you sell your soul to.
Are you too tired to do anything outside work? Then you really are giving your best self and energy to your employer. Be honest, is this a dysfunctional relationship with work – or yourself?
By working 10+ hours a day, you are giving away the most valuable thing you have.
Time is the one thing that is continuously running out. And your days on this planet are limited. There’s no time to waste.
Your value is in who you are not what you do. Not in your title, your business card or logo. Who do you want to be known for?
Work-life balance is only possible when you value yourself.
Photo by Austin Neill in Unsplash