Maintaining Work-Life Balance When the Stakes Are High

The importance of maintaining work-life balance is nothing new to the Gen Xers and millennials of the world, but it’s now become widely known among most generations and employers these days. You can thank technology for this. A workday used to be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the office and there wasn’t a way to reach an employee till the next day, cell phones weren’t a thing, messaging apps didn’t exist, and everyone was home by dinner or their kid’s t-ball practice.

Fast forward to the 21st century and you no longer have to go to the office to put in a 40 hour+ work week, clients can email you at all hours of the day, and if needed, you can even work on vacation. You should be able to disconnect on your vacation, but it doesn't always happen. Why is it necessary to set boundaries between your work life and personal life? To protect your mental state, your family’s happiness, and your career.

Think everyone has it figured out? Think again. Jan Beran, a leader in the AEC industry shares “I'm a notorious sprinter in life. I frequently take on too much. Run wild with it for a while. Burn out. Crash. Restore. Start all over again.” No one can maintain this cycle. Their job will suffer, their personal life will suffer, and their mental state will suffer.

Do employers encourage a healthy work-life balance?

Employers that offer work-life balance programs to employees report an 85% increase in productivity (CompareCamp). Why is this? The biggest reason is they show they care. They want you to put your health first before your job. They don’t expect work to come before family either. Employers that have a work-life balance program have figured out what motivates their employees and helps them take care of themselves in the process. When an employee is happy, they want to work that much harder for a company that has been supportive and encourages them to prioritize their health and family first.

How do I know if my company encourages work-life balance?

One of the biggest indicators is the ability to work remotely or have flexible hours. A lot has changed for the world and you are able to clearly see if your employer recognizes productivity whether it’s at home or the office. If you are able to do your job just as well from home, does your employer allow you that flexibility? Even if it can’t be all the time, do they recognize the importance of you being the one to pick your kids up from school instead of a babysitter? However, there are some industries that can’t offer remote work so you have to find another way of looking at it.

Do they respect and encourage your time off?

When you ask for time off are they thankful that you are looking out for yourself and taking some me-time or do they deny your request or accept it with a caveat? This can apply from anything to a sick day to vacation to “working hours.” If you aren’t on a deadline, you should be able to take a day off when you’re feeling under the weather.

When on vacation, assign someone to act as a contact both internally and externally while you are gone. Working hours is a loosely defined term these days. In fact, TeamStage reports that 40% of employees say they use their personal devices for work purposes after business hours. You should know what your employer expects and set working-hour boundaries for what times work for your company. When those hours end for the day, it’s time to close the computer and stop answering emails, even on your phone (excluding special circumstances).

Where should you start if you’re feeling overwhelmed and like your priorities could use some adjustment?

Failure is very subjective. You set your own goals and priorities so it is up to you to know when you need to take a hard look at what you have on your plate. If either your personal, work, or mental life is suffering it’s time for a change.

Infographic on time debtAppealing to all you estimators out there…you can figure this out with numbers. Jan Beran got into the weeds of it all when he realized he was in time debt.

What is time debt?

Time debt is the exact same as regular money debt. You've spent way more hours of time than your should on commitments. Your length of commitments exceeds more hours than exists in a given year. What do you do when you’re in debt? You make a budget.

Jan worked backward figuring out how many hours are in a year and then listed out his commitments by season.

First, though, came the block of time he needs on a personal level to sleep, eat, and decompress like a healthy human being. We know you estimators like numbers so here it is…there are 8,760 hours in a year. If you need 7 hours of sleep per night to feel rested, block off 8 hours per night per week times the number of weeks in a year. Allow that extra hour to get your body ready for sleep.

Then apply the same to eating (meal prep and all) and then how much time per day do you need to catch your breath before the next thing hits? This yearly time budget will show you if you are overcommitted or if you’re just not prioritizing your individual time blocks well.

Take everything into account—from what it takes to be a good parent and spouse, to what it means for you to be a present friend or volunteer. Anything you can think that you participate in and give your time to is worth listing.

This process forces you to recognize your own mortality. You have to give up more and take up less but guess what? This makes you more successful at doing every individual commitment you have in life, both personal and professional. Take it from Jan Beran who after developing his own 8760 method has learned that “patience demonstrates quality in your daily routine.”

Be brutally honest with yourself and know what success means to you so that you have the ability to evaluate your own work-life balance. The stakes have never been higher when your mental and physical health is on the line.





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