Searching for the ever-elusive work-life balance

Searching for the ever-elusive work-life balance
Article contributed by Shannon Le Roux
Written on 11 April 2017

We're on the search for the ever-elusive work-life balance.

I hear more and more from my candidates that they are wanting work-life balance in their next role, and my next question is always “How does that look to you?” because, seriously, what is this work-life balance anyway?

My first ten years of working were for a place where the work ethic is vastly different to that of what I know now. We lived to work – you were defined by your occupation and the more time you spent working the more successful you were; if you were not willing to do that then there was always someone else willing to do it instead. That as a work ethic, in itself, was not a bad thing but with nearly 26% unemployment rate in South Africa at that time, you could be treated badly on top of that without the opportunity to move on. I realized, quite slowly, that there is surely more to life than working myself to the bone to line someone else’s pocket all the while being poorly remunerated. Eventually leading to my move to New Zealand on the wave, with those in search for the ever-elusive work-life balance. So, my question now is this, can we achieve the balance and how do we know when we have got it?

Let’s take a look at job satisfaction, this looks at how well a role provides fulfillment of a need or want, or how well it serves as a source or means of enjoyment – basically the degree to which you feel positively or negatively towards your role. The factors that influence this are varied and depends entirely on your motivators, statistically though, money has very little to do with it after a certain financial threshold has been met. We’re looking at other factors such as the environment, team culture and working conditions; opportunity for advancement in your career; workload and stress level; and relationships with team leaders and managers.

With all things considered, how do we achieve job satisfaction?

  • Find a role that interests you – something that appeals to you and generates passion; 
  • take into consideration who you are and how your brain is wired – self-awareness in all aspects of life is the secret ingredient; 
  • identify your skills and experience – we need to be realistic with our working expatiations, just because you could do a job doesn’t mean you should; 
  • what is your point of difference? – taking into consideration your personal skills and attributes, what sets you apart from your competition; 
  • and finally, what are your priorities – herein lies the key to work-life balance, what is most important to you? And how can we earn some dollars’ whilst still satisfying those needs

Does job satisfaction = work-life balance? Because, I mean, happy at work; happy at life, right?

Organisational Behavior refers to this as work life harmony; the division of an individual’s time and focus on work vs personal life. A state in which all the aspects that make up your life are in harmony with one another, which tells me that this is not an equal split of all of these aspects but one that is acceptable to you to create a peace of being. Life is in a constant state of flux and we need to be aware of this fact in order to achieve the harmony we are all searching for – be willing to adjust as things in your life changes.

Some thoughts to consider whilst in search of your harmony:

  • Check out of work after work – We all fall into the trap of work emails in bed whilst trawling through LinkedIn, doing research for work products, reading work manuals at home and the like; this isn’t the healthiest behavior. If you do have work to do when you get home, try and allocate a designated hour or two to the task and close off afterwards. 
  • Schedule your favorite activities – I find it helpful to schedule the things that I love to do, the things that help me find my peace, because if I don’t they just won’t happen. It started when I got back into oil painting a couple years ago and every Tuesday night was my wine and art night, having a specific time to do those activities ensures that they get done and become a habit. 
  • Make sure you take your annual leave – I know a lot of people who do this, when you don’t schedule that down time away from work you do not allow yourself the time to recharge those batteries. If we constantly run on low we are not able to give of our best and if we are not giving our best, it can be extremely demotivating for yourselves and leave your employer dissatisfied.
  • Be a little more active than you already are – take time to go for walks; walk your dog after work or go for a walk along the beach. Try it barefoot - this is called earthing - on grass, sand or soil. There are many benefits to this and a lot of new studies around how the electrons in the earth interact with our bodies.

At the end of the day, we are really the only ones in control of our lives and know what makes us happy. Start with small adjustments every week and work your way up to big life adjusting ones. Find that internal happiness and the rest will follow.

Walker Andersen - It's all about time