The Importance of Work / Life Balance:

“NEVER GET SO BUSY MAKING A LIVING THAT YOU FORGET TO MAKE A LIFE.”

Dolly Parton, Country Singer

We often hear people speak about getting the right work / life balance, but what does it actually mean and how attainable is it?

Does technology make the elusive work life balance easier? Or does it just make it more difficult to escape the business demands on your personal time? 

I am going to try to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the perfect Work / Life Balance and explore some tried and tested methods of combining the two in harmony.

Myths:

a) WFH / Remotely is a perk which instantly gives a great work / life balance – not true it is a business model and as such needs careful planning and time management.

b) Working remotely is lonely – during work allocated periods, company is not necessary, once work is completed, personal time can be spent with as many people as you wish.

c) Employees should be online at all times so everyone can see they are working – I have seen this particular myth turn motivated hard working individuals into clock watchers!! If you need a break, take one! Genuine employees need never worry that any time away from their post should imply slacking and again, good time management / planning and visibility to colleagues, erases the feeling that one needs to be constantly online.

d) Many think that if you are not in the office you cannot be doing anything serious or that cannot be interrupted – It is important to stress to friends, family that you are working at this time and cannot be interrupted. This may only be for a ten minute call or to answer an email, but having clear boundaries makes it easier to separate the two. On the flip side the same applies to work contacts trying to encroach on the time you have put aside for you, be professional but clear on your availability.

e) You cannot have a good work life balance if you are in a senior professional role – This is absolutely not true, for many years I successfully headed up a global finance team whilst travelling around different countries for leisure and living between the UK and South Africa to spend quality time with my family. Careful planning for time zones plus clear time slots for work deadlines and for my teams, meant my work / life balance was pretty perfect.

I also know many CEO’s, Directors and Freelancers who seamlessly juggle a pretty heavy workload with equally time consuming hobbies and family life. What is their secret? Planning / Time Management and the ability to separate the two parts of their world without the need for an office or a desk to hide behind.

f) Technology makes work life balance so much easier, True & False – Technology gives us the ability to be contactable anytime, any place and anywhere and this is often described as both a blessing and a curse. 

Having the ability to work from anywhere frees us up so we can work from home, on the go or work more flexible hours, sounds great right? However, the painful truth of the matter is, that without careful structure and awareness of time management, this can mean that work takes over life far more than if you are sticking to a 9-5 office routine.

A mistake made by many looking for that freedom to work remotely whilst living the dream, is that of 24/7 availability. Yes, linking your email to your tablet, phone and smart watch, seems to be the perfect solution to breaking the shackles of the office and even giving you complete freedom from any desk at all, but beware……

Total availability, even if you are only receiving a few emails a day, an occasional whatsapp, a couple of calls, all of these and other little work queries still affect your work life balance and mean that your work time is eating into that precious personal time. 

The Magic Solution:

Quite simply……… There is no magic solution. However, there are many ways to ensure that you are on the way to your perfect work life balance.

Planning – Make sure you have allocated plenty of time to work without feeling rushed or under pressure to get away or finish. Personally I do not have fixed times to work, I assess the workload for the week and some days I retire to the study for most of the day and other days with shorter tasks I may decide to do an hour here and there.

Space – When you are working do so in a space that allows you to carry out that work without distraction, discomfort or pressure. It is ok saying you will work from 0600 to 0800 but if this is the time your family is getting ready for school, college or other activities it is unlikely you will remain undistracted. If you decide to work on your tablet while the TV is on or at a local busy restaurant during peak times, then again this is another distraction. I have spent many productive work hours at a local quiet cafe overlooking the beach, with my earphones in case I need to shut out the world completely, but it really is down to you what works well, we are all different.

Honesty – Be realistic and honest with yourself and your commitments. You may really wish to spend a week in the peak district walking with friends and family and hey how cool to be able to work from anywhere? Hmmmm ok so can you really work from there? is there signal? What is your workload that week? Can you realistically get up at 4am every day and get everything done to enable you to set off hiking with the others at 8am? Or are there clients, colleagues etc you may need to touch base with? Maybe it is about reorganising your hours to enable you to fit in work and a vacation, but also it may be time to take a full break, we all need a holiday (even us remote working jet setters).

Clarity – I am hearing more and more people who work remotely not being entirely honest about their whereabouts with clients, colleagues, employers etc. No I am not saying give people details of every second of your day, but don’t make out you are in a boardroom if you are at your son’s football match. You will just end up looking unprofessional and quite frankly a bit silly. Be honest if you are out for the rest of the day and unlikely to be online, tell relevant people if tomorrow you will only be available from 0500 until 0900 and will only be checking emails sporadically. I find that most contacts appreciate being kept in the loop, and in most cases they totally understand as long as the time you give to them is quality, undistracted time. In fact many of my clients have not only enjoyed the fact that I have for many years fully embraced my own work life balance, but I have also written articles with hints and tips on how they can make it work for their business.

No excuses – Make a plan, by all means tweak it to suit but never make excuses for slacking off, or not working when you know you should. Conversely, do not let your personal life suffer because you are catching up on work during time which should be for you. It is not the dog’s fault, the kids’ fault, your company’s fault, this is all you, this is your life and how you balance the things in it are your decision.

My final thought………. I truly believe if you want to make it work then you will, this applies to many areas of life but especially your work / life balance.

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