In a fast-paced society wherein individuals mistake productivity for self-worth, bridging the gap between life and work is often an uphill battle. You earn a living to reap the fruits of your labor, but if work begins surmounting simple life necessities such as rest—if not living, it can induce a detrimental effect on your work quality, not to mention an impending burnout.
It’s crucial to note that 94% of professionals in the US work more than 50 hours each week. A typical work week is around 40 hours, and employees with a forty-hour workweek will generally function no more than eight hours every day.
While the statistics sound alarming, there are a handful of ways to mitigate an overlapping work-life balance from recurring. Fret not! Experts break down what work-life balance is—and how to strive for one.
Dawood Khan, CEO and co-founder of Pixelied, reminds us:
“Work-life balance is somewhat comparable to creating boundaries between your career and personal life. You are setting a line where your career would not interfere with your social and family life and vice-versa. A balanced and healthy work-life boundaries allows you to function efficiently in all aspects of your life. Also, it helps you avoid stress and burnout, making you more productive, happy, and satisfied.”
This quote encapsulates how boundaries should be clear as fresh water when you begin navigating your career. It reminds us that the reason why you’re nurturing your corporate journey is to have a fruitful life—and not the other way around.
In this case, it’s imperative to identify your physical and mental limitations. If you feel weary and your mind has started digesting information slower than usual, this can be a great opportunity for you to set a handful of boundaries to avoid burnout.
Meanwhile, Christine Brownstein, CMO of Palaleather UK, tells us:
“If you’re confused about bridging the gap between work and life, be reminded that rest is also a part of productivity. Rest functions as a fuel for you to tick your to-do list boxes; hence, do not feel guilty for taking a quick time off the laptop screen. If you feel a looming burnout, my advice, if applicable, is to spend some time on your weekend that’s wholly unrelated to work. This will help you learn how to navigate your career while still being in the loop of living.”
Rest is indeed a crucial component of our work. We don’t rest because we’re lazy; we rest because we are humans who need to pause from time to time to muster up all the power to unleash a compelling work output.
However, resting sometimes function as a cloth for privilege, meaning that not everyone can afford to take a rest because they would have to put something on the table eventually. To those who are living from paycheck to paycheck, resting is seen as an option, and not as a necessity. Here’s what Hank Jackson, president and CEO of Society for Human Resource, has to say.
“As we look ahead, it is clear that in order to remain competitive, employers must find ways to offer flexible work options if they want to attract and retain top talent.” Inarguably, to solve the dilemma surrounding work-life balance, employers must also take action. Ken Matos, the lead researcher of Families and Work Institute, added that “It is clear that employers continue to struggle with fewer resources for benefits that incur a direct cost.”
Here, we acknowledge the lack of support tailored to employees for achieving a work-life balance. More often than not, employees can only do so little since time management can also be a form of privilege. Lest we forget, employees are often obliged to “just follow,” implying that they carry little to no option on changing the corporate dynamics.
According to the US Travel Association’s State of American Vacation 2018 survey, 52% of workers have unused vacation days when they reached the end of the year. Employees are frequently concerned that taking time off may interrupt the workflow and result in a queue of labor when they resume.
In addition, statistics show that unfair compensation causes 41% of burnout, inappropriate workload causes 32%, and excessive overtime causes 32% among employees, which leads to a lopsided gap between life and work.
This apprehension should not prevent workers from enjoying a much-needed holiday. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delineates a final reminder for us to achieve a balance between living and earning a living through her personal experience.
“We think about productivity through collaboration and output metrics, but well-being is one of the most important pieces of productivity. We know what stress does to workers. We need to learn the soft skills, good old-fashioned management practices, so people have their well-being taken care of. I can set that expectation, that our people can get an email from the CEO on the weekend and not feel that they have to respond.”
Time is platinum, and indeed, we must carefully spend our time on something productive—lest we forget, resting and living are parts of it. You wouldn’t want to work just to justify productivity with inevitably compromised results.
Defining work-life balance then boils down to a subjective query because each of us has different pacings in life. Some are happy to work beyond 40 hours a week; some want to take their family out to dinner on a Sunday night.
Regardless of preferences, the rule of thumb is you should see setting boundaries as a necessity to maintain the equilibrium of working and existing as a human with fundamental needs. When you have sufficient rest, you are more productive and result-driven.
Therefore, this is a genuine reminder for you to hit that snooze button and catch a few more minutes of sleep. With rest, your productivity blossoms more like sunflowers that can brave hurricanes; in the absence of rest, your petals may lead to an inevitable wither.
Rest if you must.