Achieving a satisfying work-life balance is a common struggle for professionals across all industries.At the core of work-life balance is the attempt to reconcile the tension between one's professional obligations and the activities that provide personal fulfillment outside of work. Experts agree that the lack of building personal fulfillment activities into one's daily schedule reduces feelings of overall happiness and can negatively impact one's health.
Stereotypes and expectations about what matters to women can exacerbate work-life balance challenges. It is often assumed that women will or should have more time-consuming familial obligations than men, including childrearing, and therefore will not be able to work as hard or be as dedicated to their jobs as men. And when women do have families, women often find themselves involved in more domestic labor than men with families do. According to the 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey, 49 percent of women do some housework, like cleaning or laundry, in an average day compared to only 19 percent of men.These additional hours of labor are sometimes referred to as the “second shift,”or the double burden, and they translate into fewer hours at the office.
Furthermore, even though benefits like paid family leave, flexible scheduling, on-site childcare, and more days off can help employees balance work and home life, studies show that women who make use of these benefits may be punished for doing so.
Clearly, gender stereotypes are still alive and well in the business world, and women professionals will likely encounter additional roadblocks in their quest for work-life balance compared to their male counterparts. But there are some general tips and techniques that all professionals can use to address imbalances in their professional and personal obligations. Here are seven tips:1. Disconnect
In today's hyper-connected world, finding a balance between work and the rest of your life may be harder than ever. Smartphones make it difficult to ever completely clock-out since work-related emails and messages might find their way to you after hours. If possible, try to avoid using any work-connected technology during your off-hours. Of course, not everyone has the option to ignore their emails and turn off their smartphones after leaving the office. If you find yourself unable to disconnect completely, set boundaries regarding how available you will be outside of office hours. You may consider setting a time after which you won't respond to messages or inquiries, or you may decide that only urgent matters will be dealt with during evenings or weekends. Either way, your non-work life will benefit from the limits you've set and your decision to prioritize your personal life and commitments.2. Schedule downtime
When things are busy at the office, or when you have a career that requires that you are on call or available at all times, it can be easy to neglect yourself and your need for quiet, uncommitted time. You may find that at the end of the day you've been so busy that you've forgotten to take care of someone more important than any client or supervisor--yourself! By scheduling downtime, you eliminate the possibility that you won't ever get around to it. You can spend this downtime relaxing, being with friends and family, or engaging in a fun activity. Just be sure you are doing something that you enjoy that does not feel like work!
3. Use your vacation time
As many as 41 percent of Americans do not use all of the vacation time provided by their employers. Reasons employees give for not using this time include fears that they'll come back to mountains of work, the belief that no one else can do their jobs, and concerns that they will be seen as replaceable or lazy for taking time away from the office. In reality, vacations have many benefits. According to a study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association and carried out by Oxford economics, employees are more productive, have higher morale, and are healthier when they take time away from the office. Vacation time also leads to greater retention rates, meaning employees feel more satisfied with their jobs when they feel comfortable taking time off.4. Take care of your health
Eat balanced meals, make time for physical activity, and regularly clock at least 7 hours of sleep. Neglecting your health for the sake of work increases your risk of developing health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure and places you at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.5. Focus on the big picture
One of the reasons people who are overworked experience increased health risks is due to their high rate of perceived stress. When you are mired in the details of an assignment or a looming deadline, your perceived stress level is likely to go through the roof. By focusing on your long-term goals, both professional and personal, you can keep smaller issues in perspective.6. Protect boundaries
Try not to take work problems home. For example, use the entire commute home to get into a family frame of mind. Be present mentally and emotionally when you're at home or with your friends.7. Get your priorities straight
Treat an appointment or outing with family or friends exactly like a meeting with a top executive in your organization. Give it that kind of high priority.
Finally, the burden of work-life balance should not fall only on the employees. Companies also have a responsibility to cultivate a healthy culture, which includes making it possible for employees to flourish outside the office.When employers focus on implementing policies that encourage employees to prioritize work-life balance, they save money and have a healthier, more productive workforce.