Over the years, there’s been a lot of debate over whether work-life balance is possible. And new and related terms and concepts continue to pop up each year, including work-life integration, which focuses less on compartmentalization and more on cohesion, and more recently, work-life negotiation, which focuses more on advocating for your needs at work and home, according to an article in Forbes
by Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D.
In any case, burnout is a real issue. As I cited in my recent TEDx talk
, the World Health Organization
classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019. And this past year of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, has made it even more challenging for various job types, family and childcare needs, ever-changing workplace arrangements involving remote, hybrid or in-office work or needing to be out on the front lines.
Regardless of your situation or the term or concept used, work-life balance will look different for everyone. It’s important to determine how to define yours so you can maximize your productivity, engagement, fulfillment, purpose, and happiness in your personal and professional life.
Here are five considerations to help you define how to allow your work and life to coexist in a way that works for you, your family, your employer or your own business:
1. Determine Your Own Core Values and Needs:
The first step in determining your work-life balance is to do the inner work of knowing your own core values and needs. Do you value time with your family, time for self-care, having a flexible schedule, making an impact, giving back, being creative, solving problems, rewards, and recognition, upward mobility, continuous learning and growth, team collaboration, or other standards? You may value a combination of these and some may be of a higher priority during different stages of your life than others. The key is to identify what matters most in order to determine the most optimal working arrangement for you. And if you can allow your core values to consistently be your guiding force, you’ll feel more aligned and at peace with different choices you may make throughout your career and life
2. Understand Your Family’s Needs:
It’s also important to understand your family’s needs. Is it important for everyone to be home for dinner together most nights? Do your kids want you to be present at their sports games or school events? Do you and your spouse or significant other have a system of shared responsibilities for the household and kids? Meeting everyone’s needs in your family or household can be tricky and can’t realistically happen all at once. However, it should be handled with care and consideration, in order to cultivate, protect or nourish these relationships, including the one you have with yourself. Having a clear understanding of how the family’s needs interact with your own needs will help in determining the right work-life balance for you. It will also allow you to set boundaries with work or figure out how to integrate your family into your work and vice versa.
Having a clear understanding of how the family’s needs interact with your own needs will help in determining the right work-life balance for you.
3. Take Note of Your Employer or Business Needs:
As we continue to progress through the pandemic and the world continues to open back up, what are the expectations of your employer or business when it comes to remote, hybrid or in-person work? How much face-time is required to be effective within your job, business and/or teams? How much travel is involved in your job? Knowing what your employer or business needs are and matching that up to what you and your family need, will play a big role in balancing your personal and professional responsibilities. And you may at times run into conflicts across each of these key stakeholders, which will be uncovered through understanding and noting everyone’s needs. At that point, you’ll need to go back to your core values and priorities to determine how to combat these situations and handle them in a way that doesn’t compromise what’s most important in your life.
4. Communicate, Negotiate and Refine as Needed:
Overall, in order to define what work-life balance can look like for you, having ongoing, honest and open communications with your family, employer, or business partners and yourself will be critical. You’ll want to keep all parties informed, seek understanding and clarification where needed, and set expectations across these key areas of your life. You may also need to negotiate, especially as various aspects of your life may evolve or change over time. And those might be situations where refinement is needed. Perhaps a certain job or working arrangement is no longer serving you. Or perhaps the way you approach childcare or household responsibilities needs to change. Or maybe you and your family just need to take a vacation to feel recharged and get a sense of work-life balance. Different solutions will be needed for different individuals and the best way to create a customized approach to your work and life is to do the deeper work and keep doing that work time and time again.
Different solutions will be needed for different individuals and the best way to create a customized approach to your work and life is to do the deeper work and keep doing that work time and time again.
While the last year has certainly been difficult, one silver lining is that it’s forced most people to think about their priorities, health, and happiness. Burnout has become too big of an issue throughout the world to ignore, and it’s dangerous for our society to keep going on this unhealthy path we’ve been on. Many companies, nonprofits, healthcare, and other types of organizations are realizing this and trying to implement employee wellness and engagement solutions. We have the ability to turn this occupational phenomenon around and help employees, managers, leaders, and business owners operate in a much more sustainable way. Ultimately it starts with each of us individually and then collectively as a group. Therefore, I hope you’ll take the time to design the work-life balance you deserve!