The concept of balancing work and life has often been described as a myth itself, when in fact it has the potential to be the truth that will set you free. A few years ago when Entourage was all the rage, and pulled us into the life of talent agent Ari Gold in Hollywood we learned a valuable lesson – work can take over your life. I’m sure many of us didn’t need the entertainment industry to tell us that though, we understand that truth just fine. The problem however is that this lesson is a lie. Work life balance can exist and here are five myths and corrective truths to help you attain it.
Myth 1: Working long hours is important for career advancement
This myth exists at all levels of hierarchy in the workforce. For the average professional beginning a new job means putting in extra time to prove a high level of dedication. It also exists in situations where a vested employee is searching for advancement opportunities and believes that if they push themselves hard enough they can get that promotion. These situations are often innately flawed and according to workforce.com are often because of culture and communication issues within an organization.
Jennifer Lacy, director of research for The New York Times Job Market, presented the findings of a survey of 300 job seekers in the big apple and found that, “there is a general perception among employees that working long hours is important for career advancement.” This notion is ultimately harmful to the employees and the companies that promote it. Consider those workplaces that offer pay and promotion policies that support it. In these cases although originally intended to foster productivity, oftentimes actually undermines attempts to support balancing work and life.
In addition this type of environment can adversely affect an organization by possibly increasing turnover rates. More work hours mean less personal and family time, which opens the door for workaholic tendencies and increases stress levels. According to Lacy’s study, 75 percent of the respondents reported that workplace stress had an impact on their decision to look for a new job.
Myth 2: Small to mid-range companies can’t offer many options
Not every company can be Google complete with a campus equipped with sleep pods, game rooms and barber shops. Would it be cool? Yes. Is it realistic for all of us? No, but that does not mean that it’s impossible for companies to offer amenities and options to balance daily life. Organizational leaders in any company can encourage ways to find equilibrium between home and career life. Here are a few suggestions for companies:
- Sponsor employee and family events
- Be open to offering flexible work schedules for certain situations
- Encourage managers to model the work balance they’d like for their employees
- Create partnerships to offer staff discounts for engaging in recreational activities
- Disperse gadgets to help employees track their health and wellness
- Offer dependent care on site for working parents
These are just a few of many options available to organizations of all shapes and sizes. Be creative and considerate when designing program to reward those who are working hard to move the business forward.
Myth 3: Time management will set you free
The study and practice of time management principles can sometimes be compared to first time parents discovering all the different methods of raising a child where every person has another new opinion. Yes there is historical data on both situations but it truly comes down to what works for the individual and/or family unit.
Consider the old notion of 8-8-8 where we were once told to spend eight hours working, eight hours sleeping and eight hours on recreational and social activities. Does that sound amazing? I would be hard pressed to find someone in the world who lives by this methodology. Today we think time management is following the alarm on our integrated online calendars to check off all of the commitments on the to do list. But what if you don’t focus on trying to do everything and only focus on what is really important?
It is a simple but baffling concept to some of us. To free yourself of this myth you need to prioritize by identifying what the most crucial items to commit to – both at work and at home. Recognize your deadlines as well as your values and you should naturally find yourself in the sweet spot of productivity. By focusing on what is truly important, you are able to manage your energy and attention throughout the day to maximize your output.
Myth 4: Technology will give us more leisure time
Think of all of the devices you use on a daily basis. How many are there? With all of the new technologies hitting the workplace as well as the home it is nearly impossible to disconnect from the emails, texts and calls requesting time from us. All of the mobile products on the market keep us connected 24/7 and by default we are working more hours than ever before.
This part is where your will as well as your professionalism comes into play. It is important to provide clear expectations about when you are and are not available for others to reach you, then follow through. Set aside time to unplug from external demands. This could be as simple as leading by example and turning off your phone at the dinner table with family. If you are checking messages between bites, the action tells your children that they can do it too and before you know it your dining room looks like a T-Mobile commercial.
Myth 5: Corporate success equals happiness
This is not just a myth of work life balance, but one of the “American Dream.” Work hard, make money and you’ll be happy. Although most of us know there is little correlation to the truth in this phrase, it still exists within our society. Countless studies prove that happiness and contentedness is about discovering our true selves or as Maslow would say attaining self-actualization in the hierarchy of needs. The truth is however that satisfied people work develop much pride and pleasure out of their occupations, but they also build in time for relationships, outside interests and passions.