Organizations everywhere proudly proclaim that their people are their most important assets.
Human resource departments, populated by human resource specialists, are assembled to ensure that the best people are brought on board, given the training and education that they need to be successful, and have an array of competitive benefits.
Over the years, however, as I speak at conferences and conventions, it has become abundantly clear that while organizations proclaim that the work-life balance of their human resources is important, actually it is given short shrift. Many times, when I’ve been booked to give a presentation or workshop on attaining work-life balance, integration, and harmony -- and delivered more than 1060 of them -- my session was scheduled by the host organization merely to placate attendees. These staff people then go back to an oppressive work environment, hoping for some type of respite as the weeks progress.
What are some of the hallmarks of a workforce not in balance? Whether in a booming economy or a rough economy, you’ll witness the same type of phenomena. For one, credit card debt per capita remains high, meaning that people are spending more than they’re receiving. If they had sufficient funds to pay off their credit cards, and avoid the exorbitant interest, most surely would.
Our workforce is gaining weight, which one might imply means that they have no time to exercise. Most people do have time to exercise but they choose not to, instead indulging in activities that require only armchair-related movement.
Perhaps worst of all, the reliance on chemicals – in liquid or pill form – is at alarming levels. Generally speaking, individuals who achieve a sense of work-life balance don’t need to pop pills for this and that.
If your organization values work-life balance, you are fortunate. Whether or not that is the case, here are strategies to carve out a little space and time for yourself, if not every day, then at least several times per week:
1) Arrive at your workplace early. Don’t leave home at the last minute required to arrive on time. Depart 10 or 15 minutes earlier, even if not necessary. Why? When you arrive earlier than usual, you have a chance to center yourself, reflect on the day ahead, and make small changes to your immediate environment. All things being equal, the employee who arrives even five minutes early has a better chance of starting the day more focused than the employee who arrives with only a minute to spare.
2) Is it tough for you to eat breakfast at seven and last ‘til lunch at 12, with nothing in between? If so, bring healthy snacks so that you can take that break as needed and maintain your blood sugar level. Otherwise, you might have a craving for the kinds of foods that you don’t need: highly sugared, salted, or fat-laden snacks.
Yes it takes a little time in the morning to cut carrots or put peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, but the payoff comes over and over again as you feel more productive and energetic at work and your performance reflects that.
3) Linger occasionally, 30 to 60 seconds, before going to the restroom, before and after meetings, before and after lunch, and so on. Those extra seconds can make a huge difference in your mental health for that day, and cumulatively, for the days and weeks that follow.
4) When you’re at lunch, be at lunch. Don’t bring work with you, and don’t fret about what you have to do when you return to work. Consume a good, nutritious lunch. Actually taste the food, and chew it thoroughly. In short, do everything your mother told you to do several decades ago. It makes a difference.
The personal quest for work-life balance is based more on perception than anything else. Those who periodically feel like they have work-life balance are better off than those who might actually have a balance between their work and personal life but don’t perceive themselves to have it!
So, acknowledge the good things going on in your career, at home, and everywhere in between. Your recurring positive thoughts lead to even greater positivity.
Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com