There are a lot of advantages to maintaining a healthy balance between your work life and that of your personal life. Many employers have recognized the economical advantages and in doing so have come up with plans to make it easier for employees to regain or maintain that much needed balance.
Through these programs employees have the opportunity to de-stress, exercise, attend to personal errands and engage in meaningful relationships outside the work environment. Most importantly however, it’s my opinion that maintaining a balance in your life between work and your personal life allows employees to build the much needed support and coping systems in preparation for the day when work is no longer there.
I once worked in an industry where it was common place for people like me to work 12 hours or more a day. The environment was stressful and it was common in this industry for people to relieve stress in unhealthy ways after work. I watched as people around me fell in to substance abuse issues, relationships fell apart, and people became ill. My initial thought was that it was the toxic environment of this particular industry that caused this. So I left that industry and transitioned into a new career.
My career transition found me in a very different environment. I was no longer surrounded by those with substance abuse issues, or failing relationships. It was a very supportive environment where I was able to form some lasting friendships. However, I had come into this new role having carried with me a habit from my past. Some would call it a strong work ethic and others would say I was a workaholic, either way, what I was doing was self destructive.
I found myself working sometimes 14 hours a day to accomplish the tasks I set out for myself. On occasion I would also go into work on the weekends or if I was unable to sleep, I would drive back to work in order to be productive with my time.
At the same time, my relationship with family and friends was failing. My health was deteriorating and my stress levels were always high. I found myself often tired but due to the high levels of stress unable to sleep. It was comforting to know I could always go to work where I was appreciated and surrounded by people who were supportive and kind.
This was the case for years until 2008. The world fell into a recession and companies found themselves needing to become more “lean”. Restructuring became a word that became more common. In light of all the hard work I offered to the organization I worked for, the reality of the situation was that the payroll numbers were too high, and changes were needed within the business. Despite the loyalty I had shown to the organization and all that I had endured with it as my means to give me focus, I was “restructured”. I lost the only thing that was left in my life that gave me focus.
It occurred to me then how wrong I was. Regardless of how well one might do their job, how loyal they are, or what they sacrificed towards the success of the organization, in the end, whether by choice or not, eventually it won’t be there for you anymore. Then the question remains, “What will you have left in your life?” In my experience, all I had left was a house, void of furniture or people. I had bills to pay without the means to do so. I had many broken friendships to repair, and plenty of time to myself to ponder where my mistakes were made. It was at this moment in my life when I realized that a career is not meant to live by, but it is a means to live.
Again, I transitioned into another career, this time human resources. I found a balance in my life so I might enjoy it both within and away from the workplace. I am now in a career where I enjoy every aspect of what I do each day. I balance this with my personal life and enjoy the bonds of friendship and companionship that have formed. My health is good, my stress levels are lower, I’ve experienced more of the world and I am able to see beyond my career where there is happiness to be shared with others.
Work/life balance is not just about creating programs that encourage higher levels of performance through increased levels of job satisfaction. They are about providing people like me and you with the means to live healthy and fulfilling lives that extend beyond our careers.
Do you believe work/life balance is important? What do you do to provide yourself with balance in your life?