Provocative Question: What is your idea of work/life balance? Do you ask for work/life balance with your employer?
Big deadline at work? Kids sick with a cold? Can’t remember the last time you meditated? Don’t we need milk? Isn’t there an event this week for mindfulness? When was the last time I could nap? All these questions plague the mind when we struggle with work/life balance. Giving enough time to your work to advance your career while also balancing your time outside the office, which can include kids, friends, family, pets, etc., can feel like a scheduling nightmare. So, what’s the secret to finding the balance? Is there a solution or do we all need to find Hermione’s time-turner to make sure we can put our energy toward everything?
A potential solution is to stop saying work/life balance, but maybe work/life integration. Creating a balancing act can foster false ideals that can override life. Molly Triffin, Her Money, states, “I say ‘integrated life’ because I don’t believe in the idea of ‘work-life balance.’ I feel like that whole concept is setting women up to be disappointed in themselves for not spending enough time doing such and such. I take a more fluid approach. I try to spend as much of my life as possible doing what I like with people whose company I enjoy” (https://www.hermoney.com/earn/work-life-balance/5-successful-women-on-work-life-balance/). Now – upon first read, it’s easy to say, “Wow, great idea, but how do you actually make that happen?” Linda Theisen, Vice President of Procurement at Hilton and My Career Matters member, said, “My thought on work/life balance have shifted to work/life integration. I learned how to focus on the demand ebbs and flows of each to assure all parts of my life which provide me happiness and fulfillment are tended to. I have never asked an employer for permission on how to integrate the two but instead did what I instinctively knew what was the right thing to do for ME.” Creating a balance can be daunting, but both of these women prove that by looking at ways to make them work together, it can allow for you to prioritize effectively based on how you feel.
Work/life balance does not mean that you need to schedule your life down to the minute to ensure that you have set enough time for everything – it might mean realizing that your mental health needs some time to focus to increase your success. Amelia McInnis, a Consultant and My Career Matters member, said, “My idea of work/life balance consists of having enough down time to allow myself an opportunity to recharge. For me, once I am recharged, I am able to perform much more effectively and efficiently. Self-care is so important to your mental wellbeing, overall health and career.” By focusing on yourself and your own needs, it allows you to determine what you need to feel your best at work and outside of work. McInnis’s statement is further explained by Rebecca Marsh, American Psychological Association, who said, “Women must have a desire to take control of their own work/life balance and take initiative, representing their own individual effort aimed at securing this work/life balance” (https://www.apa.org/pi/about/newsletter/2015/09/women-workplace). A colleague’s version of work/life balance may not align with your own, meaning that you have to search for what you need to feel balanced.
Allison Benczkowski, Director of Corporate Communications at SpartanNash and My Career Matters member, shows that her work/life balance is not scheduled day by day but on a more macro-scale. She says, “Work life balance, by definition, often makes it seem like it should be equal. I think of it more as seasons – sometimes I need to be all in at work. Sometimes I need to be all in at home. I don’t need precise ‘balance’ every day or week, but overall I need to feel the two are balanced on a larger scale (monthly, quarterly, etc.).” It’s a hard stretch to plan that every day will be perfectly balanced between work and life, but if you strive to view your balance as spread out among months and quarters, you may feel more capable of finding a balance for everything that you value in your life.
Work/life balance will probably be a struggle for all in their careers, but it’s about understanding a perfect balance may not be possible (and that’s okay). Check in with your mental health, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice about this topic. We are all trying to understand how to balance focusing on a task while Avengers: Endgame tickets go on sale and every movie theater website in America crashes – it’s all about balance (and looking into Captain America’s eyes for peace).