How To Identify Gaps In Balance by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

Work-life balance is a common term that is used to describe how to divide life into a professional section and a personal section. The idea behind work-life balance is that the two elements must be managed to ensure happiness, productivity, and effectiveness in life.

The key to work-life balance, however, is not as simple as spending half of your walking time at work and half of your time out of work. In fact, as changes in the way we work and the use of technology have unfolded over the last few decades and through the pandemic, finding a balance between the time we spend at work and the time we spend not at work is increasingly a challenge.

Signs of Problems  

Work-life balance becomes more difficult if you work from home or remotely some or all the time. When your workspace is in the same physical location as your personal space, the lines between the two begin to blur. However, even before hybrid or home workspace was a factor, people had difficulty seeing when there was a problem.

Some of the signs your work-life balance is out of balance include:

  • Lack of routine – having a set start and stop time for work helps to create a structure and routine that helps to break off work and shift into personal space and time. Setting alarms can help to avoid working longer hours than you may recognize you are completing. Make it a habit not to look at emails or go back to work once you have “clocked out” for the day.
  • Constantly thinking about work – while we can physically step away from work, it is more difficult to avoid bringing your work home in your head. Finding things to do that help you mentally transition from work to personal is important. This could be going for a walk, listening to your favorite music, playing with your kids, or otherwise mentally disengaging from thoughts about work.
  • Missing special events for work-related things – while you may have to miss the occasional personal event due to work, missing a significant amount of time with family, not being able to be at special events for the kids or family members, or prioritizing work over family and friends is a significant sign there is no balance. This type of imbalance can trigger problems with partners and kids not feeling important in your life.
  • Negative changes – if you are constantly stressed, depressed, have physical health issues, or are engaging in bad habits such as overeating, smoking, drinking, or feeling anxious, you may not be taking enough personal time to relax and take care of your physical and mental wellbeing.

Creating a work-life balance starts with recognizing a problem exists. Then, adding in self-care, structuring your day, taking breaks, reconnecting with family and friends, and doing things you enjoy as a priority rather than an afterthought will help you stay more productive, motivated, and engaged at work.