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Stop Juggling and Start Living

Updated on January 14, 2013
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Ten Tips to Sharpen Life's Blurry Edges

When does your work day end and your personal life begin?

In the busyness of life, the line is more blurred than ever before. Employees participate on social media sites, like Facebook, while sitting at their desk. They run their errands on their lunch break and hope that their work gets done so they can see their child's soccer game in the evening.

Employers expect e-mails to be answered, even when a staff member is on vacation. They frown upon additional time off to take a child to a doctor’s appointments, and they don't acknowledge the amount of work done in the evening and on the weekends by their team members.

What's the solution?

Here are the Top 10 best practices for both employees and employers for navigating work/life balance today:

For Employees:

1. Don't be consumed with trying to mix your work life and your personal life. It's difficult to do, and in most cases it doesn't work extremely well. Generally one or the other will suffer. Mentally "switch off" your work brain on the drive home. Give your full attention to your family when you are with them. If you do have a project you need to work on at home, let your family know how long you will be tied up and switch back “on” to work mode.

2. Step away from the cell phone. Take a technology break as often as you can. When you are on vacation, activate your "Out Of Office" message and don't check e-mail until you return. Let management know that you are giving 100% of your attention to your family and you will not be available for work-related issues. Tell your employer that in return you will be refreshed, renewed, and revitalized when you get back to work.

3. Let management know what you need. Most managers have failed "Mind Reading 101.” They don't know what you need to balance your work and family time unless you tell them. Whether it's a permanent change to your schedule, or a temporary arrangement, just ask. The worst thing that could happen is they say "no." You may be surprised how flexible they are in working with you.

4. Pay attention to the things that matter. Schedule mandatory down time from work: a family dinner once a week; date night with your spouse once a month; regular volunteer activities; time with friends, etc. Whatever is valuable to you, make time for it and don't cancel unless it's an absolute emergency (and I'm talking life or death here.)

5. Keep a gratitude journal. Acknowledge and be grateful for the blessings in your life: your job, your boss, your spouse, your house. Simply write down 3-5 sentences starting with, “I am grateful for…” Add some detail to your list, and genuinely FEEL your appreciation for the items on your list. There are too many things that we all take for granted, adding to our stress level. When you take the time to celebrate what is good about your life, you’ll be happier at work AND at home.

For Employers:

1. Periodically review staff workloads. As companies grow and change, an uneven distribution of employee workloads may occur. If a team member has left and not been replaced, other employees may have inherited additional responsibilities that bog them down. As a short-term fix, this is not a problem. But if it goes on over an extended period, employees may grow resentful of the additional jobs they are doing without compensation.

2. Assess your assumptions. Are you more lenient with employees who have children versus single employees insofar as giving them time off? Have a conversation with each of your employees to determine what works best for them. You may find that your single employee is taking care of an aging parent, and their needs for personal time are just as critical as those with children.

3. Offer flexible scheduling. Concentrate on outcomes versus. If one employee wants to work from seven o'clock to three o'clock, and another prefers 10 o'clock to seven o'clock, does it honestly matter? Chances are the hours before and after prime time will be the most productive time spent anyway.

4. Give your staff the tools they need to do their job well. If you need short-term help for project work, hire a temporary. If you implemented a new system, send your employees for additional training. Support your staff in whatever ways you can, even if it means rolling up your sleeves and pitching in from time to time.

5. Give time off for momentous occasions. When choosing between a cash incentive or time off, many employees will opt for a break from work. Whether it's closing the office at noon after completing a time consuming project, or offering a paid vacation to the winner(s) of a contest, it's a terrific way to give your staff a much deserved break.

The most powerful way for both employers and employees to navigate work/life balance is to figure out how to create a win-win. How do you keep your staff energized and enthusiastic about their jobs? You give them time to relax and refresh.

How do you establish your own priorities when it comes to work life balance? Take a moment to assess where you are spending your time, and analyze your schedule to make sure it is a good representation of what's valuable to you.

Work and life will not always be balanced on a day-to-day schedule. But if you can get closer to finding that balance over the course of a week, a month or a year, the company and its staff will prosper.


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