Barriers to Work-Life Balance
In the 21st century, “work-life balance” has become a buzz word. ADP states “the term was first introduced in the 1970s and 80s as stressed baby boomers strove to achieve a balance between career, family and other areas of their lives.” Now, work-life balance is promoted as the antidote to burnout. Taking vacation days and […]
In the 21st century, “work-life balance” has become a buzz word. ADP states “the term was first introduced in the 1970s and 80s as stressed baby boomers strove to achieve a balance between career, family and other areas of their lives.” Now, work-life balance is promoted as the antidote to burnout. Taking vacation days and leaving work at work used to be a sign of this balance but now, with flexible hours, remote offices, and more opportunities to work in a field one is passionate about, it can be hard to define what work-life balance looks like for each of us. It can be even harder to determine if we are achieving it. While Hardly acknowledges there are a variety of work to life ratios that feel healthy depending on your work personality, here is a list of common barriers to attaining the balance you are looking for:
Regardless of what your work style is, giving colleagues and clients 24/7 access to you can make it impossible to create work-life balance. The scary thing is, most of us don’t even realize we are doing this. While I love the creation of smartphones, one of the huge downfalls is that my work email and slack are always attached to me. I could be at dinner with the family or on a weekend trip with my friends and I still feel the pressure to keep tabs on work because notifications are flying in. Now if you are a person who likes to work on the go, having your work email on your phone might be a godsend, but that doesn’t mean you have to be available all of the time. Instead, make a habit of turning off your notifications for at least part of the day and creating a 48 hour reply rule so that others don’t expect you to be on demand all of the time.
Priorities & planning
Intimately tied to setting access boundaries, understanding that most things are not urgent is crucial to maintaining work-life balance. Setting priorities and having a plan for executing them will help you keep your boundaries consistent. If your goal is to never work past 5pm, you have to be able to determine tasks for the next 24 hours versus what can wait until the next morning. This way you are confident in your decision to stay offline. Similarly, effective weekly planning will help your boss and colleagues feel comfortable not contacting you while on vacation. It is when they feel out of the loop that panic arises and we are unable to detach.
This next one is more of a mindset rather than a clear obstacle. Either consciously or unconsciously many of us identify work as our primary source of value. If we earn a high salary or work for a prestigious company it in part identifies us and our accomplishments. While understandable, thinking you are your job can be hugely detrimental to work-life balance. Even if work is not attached to your identity, 99% of us need a job to have financial security. If your job feels like it is all you have, you will live in fear of jeopardizing it. So when your boss asks you to take on more, your natural reaction is to say yes without question. Next thing you know, friends, family, hobbies, and mental health can all fall to the wayside. Combat this by keeping your resume and cover letter updated, networking, and knowing your capabilities. Have confidence in your ability to get another job and that your life is full outside of work to prevent your boundaries from being bulldozed.
Another prominent boundary to achieving work-life balance is your company’s culture. While many companies now boast ideals that support employee mental health and encourage time away from work, the reality can look very different. Many times, our bosses and colleagues set the tone for expectations at work so if they aren’t taking a break, we aren’t either. Similarly, if we see that others are praised for staying late or working on weekends, we are likely to follow suit. While we don’t have control over other people’s habits, we can seek out environments where our style of work-life balance is encouraged and at the very least have a candid conversation with our superiors about how our desired balance can be supported.
Not knowing what to do
Lastly, one of the largest barriers to work-life balance is 100% in your control: not knowing what to do outside of work. It is hard to justify time away from your desk when life outside of work lacks purpose or excitement. As adults we often forget the value of having hobbies that don’t bring in money or we aren’t excelling at. Not everything has to be a side hustle for it to be important. Spending time with friends, family (pets included), and nurturing interests outside of work makes you a whole person. Valuing your home life will help you respect it and make work-life balance a priority.