All of us have at least two sides to our lives – a personal side and a professional side and often, one takes precedence over the other. For some, personal time is more important than work and friends and family come before other obligations. In contrast, others prefer focusing their energy on work and view non-work relationships as something to tend to only when free.
However, both these practices are wrong. We need to devote ourselves equally to our work and home; we need to maintain a suitable work-life balance. This is needed to improve our physical, emotional and mental well-being and to allow us to give our all to both our workplaces and families.
As one can surely deduce from the name, work-life balance is an ideal state where a person can pursue a full-time career without neglecting himself/herself and his/her family.
But the important word here is “ideal.” Most people think work-life balance is devoting exactly half of their time to work and the other half to life and while this is the best-case scenario, it is not always possible. Some days, we will be busier at work while other days, we might be able to devote all our time to our peers. Work-life balance is more of a lifestyle than a day-to-day pattern.
For a balanced work and life, we should not be afraid to put up a cocoon. Life can be exhausting and it does good to leave everything for a while and take time to recover. The amount of time needed varies from person to person so we should not compare ourselves to others.
Some may only need 15 minutes of quiet to get back on their feet while others may require a full day of leave to recharge their batteries. Because everyone is different, their recovery needs are different. Do what you need to feel better. Sometimes, cocooning is not truly possible until you take a vacation. If that is the case, take it. Due to the nature of your job or the environment at the office, you may still be required to work when not at work. Journalists, for example, need to be following key issues and developments even when at home on days off. Lawyers can be seen brushing up on cases on weekends and teachers spend holidays formulating lesson plans and grading assignments. So, every once in a while, we should completely unplug from work and relax.
Most institutions give their employees a certain number of vacation days in a year. The employees should make sure to use them. Having vacation days left is nothing to be proud of and taking days off, when genuinely needed, is not a cause for guilt. As mentioned above, work-life balance is a lifestyle and so, working extra hours when at the office to compensate for holidays and vacations is perfectly acceptable.
Also, remember to set boundaries. When at the office, do not think about hobbies and holidays and when out of the office, do not think about work. For safety, you may want to have separate phones or laptops for office and home so you can truly shut one out when at the other. Set clear borders between work and life and do not cross them.
This may not be possible though due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the work from home provisions many of us have adopted over the past two years. If that is the case then let us set fixed working hours.
We would not work more than eight hours when at the office so why do it when at home? Conversely, we would not spend every waking moment with our families on normal days so why do it when working from home?
Work from home does not make work and home one and the same. Work is still work and home is still home. So, it is important to treat them, and consequently our involvement in them, differently.
In maintaining work-life balance, or doing anything really, our main focus should be our physical and mental health. Our schedule should revolve around our needs and not the other way round.
Our work and social life require a healthy us. So do not be afraid to cancel plans or postpone meetings. It is only when we are fit can we be of use to our offices or friends.