Buzz word alert. The term “work life balance” is no longer applicable. After a generation trying to figure out how balance could be achieved, the latest term is now work life integration. Apparently technology is to blame —our personal and professional lives have been pushed together, so whether we like it or not, balance is no longer an option.
Ah. A rose by any other name… whatever you call it, balance or integration, workers today are even more likely than before to find personal time eroded because of the pressure to work longer hours and do more. Instead of reducing hours, technology has made it easier to reach us 24/7. As a result, when 10,000 workers in 8 countries were surveyed last year by Ernst & Young’s Global Generations Research, it was confirmed: everyone is finding it harder to juggle the demands of work and the rest of life.
Work life integration, not work take-over
The pushing together of personal and professional lives is particularly apparent for remote or teleworkers. Instead of giving employees the flexibility of working from home, “work flexibility” turns into work take over. The office walls extend into your home, and with them, all your colleagues and customers via your tech devices.
But as long as you can still recognize the difference between office work and personal time, you can still maintain some kind of balance. It’s a matter of setting up boundaries—both physical and psychological—that help you be productive, better manage your time, and stay zen-like calm!
1- When you work remotely, confine yourself to one or two places in your home (that is, not every couch, chair, deck and bathtub). Some people can work like this, but for most, it turns the home into one big distracting office.
2- Be clear with yourself as well as your colleagues when you have working hours. For instance, don’t answer your phone in the evening (if you aren’t an evening shift worker), and when you do receive requests for information during non-office hours, resist the temptation to answer right away. Okay, you may draft a response, but hit send the next morning.
3- When you have personal time, make it quality time. Turn your phone to silent, or better yet, tuck it away completely and give your child/ spouse/ friends/ pet your undivided, uninterrupted attention.
4- Practice flexibility, or in Ninja terms, unorthodoxy and acceptance in terms of what you expect from yourself as well as others. When you feel pressured to get everything done—that part of your life takes over. Admit you are only human and give yourself some slack. Perhaps you can call a reliable grocery delivery service to load up on the essentials, or ask for an extension for that report that’s due.
5- Keep your passions and friendships alive. It’s easier to turn off the computer when you are tempted by something you enjoy like a hobby, a physical activity, or dinner with friends.
Lessons from an Olympic time manager
There are times when work or something you are committed to takes more time out of your day than your personal life. Even during these times, it is still is possible to carve out a few hours to keep yourself rounded, and grounded—regardless of who you are.
Last spring I interviewed the mother of a young girl heading to her first Olympic games. I watched that same young girl—16-year-old Penny Oleksiak— receive her gold medal. It was one of four she earned as a member of the Canadian swim team. I remember asking her mother if it was challenging to keep her daughter focused on her training. She replied that it was also important that Penny had time to experience life as a typical 16-year old. She let her daughter miss some events last spring so she could attend a sleep over with friends, and attend her high school dance. (Note: this certainly didn’t affect her Olympic performance!)
Penny’s wise parents instilled an important lesson here for all of us- that everyone needs time for both work and play. It may not ever be balanced, but knowing that there is flexibility to include the really important stuff—like the occasional sleep over—can make a world of difference.
By Beth Parker, a Canadian author and ghostwriter engaged in a continual struggle to balance the needs of her business with the welcomed chaos of five children, a husband and various pets. She has a BA (English), University of Toronto, and an MA (Journalism). In her fictional spare time, she paints pictures.