Finding a balance between work and your personal life is critical to your happiness and well-being, as well as the success of your company.
Finding balance in life is a challenge for almost all of us. It’s something that most of us want, but few of us put conscious effort into achieving. Many companies and organizations have policies to help their employees achieve work-life balance. These policies are a good way to attract and retain talented people, as workplace flexibility that enables employees to pursue personal endeavors is a priority and expectation for many.
Technology, however, makes it harder and harder to separate work and life. Few of us step away from our cellphones for extended periods of time, making us available via email, text message, telephone, or even social media at almost any hour of the day. Although work-life balance has become more difficult, millennials — who as of 2015 account for the largest portion of the U.S. workforce (Figure 1) (1) — cite work-life balance as a top priority. Companies will have to prioritize policies that promote flexibility and balance to attract the 47% of millennials who consider work-life balance a key issue (2).
Ironically, the same technologies that make it difficult to separate work and life could also provide a means to work flexibly to accommodate diverse schedules and needs. Remote connectivity enables us to work from anywhere at any time, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you manage it. Employees of other generations may have a different set of expectations, perhaps valuing face time in the workplace. Therefore, they may perceive colleagues who work remotely or under other more-casual conditions as not working or working less hard. It is important to have an open dialogue with coworkers about your desire for work-life balance to ensure your intent for working remotely or working a flexible schedule is understood.
I’ve experienced the scale tip toward work firsthand. I’ve worked on projects where the timeline was aggressive, and I voluntarily put in extra time to get the job done. I have also been asked to work on holidays to manage installations because large equipment modifications are often completed while production areas are shutdown.
Especially as a young engineer, it is easy to convince yourself to relinquish personal time to get ahead at work. I often find myself thinking, “I don’t have anything important happening this weekend. I might as well work.” There are certainly times when commitment to the schedule is crucial to the success of a project. Don’t dismiss requests from your manager to work overtime, but be acutely aware of how it is affecting you. Make sure you have a strong understanding of the balance you require in your life for you to feel happy, fulfilled, and energized by your work.
Even if you started...
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