A Work-Life Balance Is Up To You, Not Your Employer

April 11, 2011

Businesswoman meditating in officeFor many of us, achieving a work-life balance isn't easy. We're constantly checking for "urgent" emails after-hours--even on holidays--and there's always something that needs to be done immediately, even if you're just about to leave the office for the day. According to The Wall Street Journal, however, if you're struggling to find a balance, that's nobody's fault but our own.

Rachel Emma Silverman, who attended the South By Southwest Interactive conference in March, noted that there was a reoccurring theme during the discussions about workplace and company culture: "employees shouldn't wait for their managers or their company as a whole to install a culture of work-life balance". Instead, employees need to be proactive when it comes to separating work from personal or family time.

"Forget blaming your boss for bombarding you with 'urgent' emails after-hours or your co-workers for pestering you in your cubicle so that you never seem to get anything done during the workday," said Silverman in The Wall Street Journal's "The Juggle". "It's up to you to set limits and expectations..."

On a similar note, a recent TED Talk by author Nigel Marsh also noted that certain jobs and career choices are simply incompatible with having a family and that governments and corporations aren't going to create a balance for us.

"If you don't design your life, someone else will design it for you, and you may just not like their idea of balance..." said Marsh. Furthermore, he added that employees should never let a corporation set the boundaries they want in their lives because companies will always try to get as much out of their workers as they can.

Although there will always be some rules enforced by management, such as vacation days or telecommuting rules noted The Wall Street Journal, it's ultimately up to employees to create better work-life policies or practices. And these could be small things, such as getting a few friends together for lunch instead of eating lunch at your desk. This is exactly what one woman did at her office--in a SXSW discussion on company culture, she shared how she got a few colleagues to leave the office for an hour every day to enjoy lunch together. Not only did participants seem happier, but it even brought colleagues closer.

BusinessNewsDaily reported that disengaging the way these workers did for lunch is the best way to achieve work-life balance.

Julie McCarthy, professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto Scarborough, analyzed three typical ways people deal with an unbalanced work life: deal with tasks little by little, vent about it to others or take a break and ignore it all together. Contrary to what some may believe, walking away from work and taking a break actually proved to be more productive.

"Mentally disengaging from the task at hand serves as a resource recovery function," explained McCarthy. "People need to do that on a daily basis."

McCarthy recommended healthy alternatives, such as exercise or family time. The Wall Street Journal recommended setting one's own limits, such as not responding to emails after you leave the office. Marsh, on the other hand, said workers need to nurture their intellectual, spiritual and emotional lives, even if it's just by doing something small, according to TED Talk.

Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff


"Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work," ted.com, February 2011

"No Work-Life Balance? It's Your Fault," blogs.wsj.com, April 7, 2011, Rachel Emma Silverman

"The One Thing You Can Do to Achieve Work-Life Balance," businessnewsdaily.com, April 4, 2011

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