The Separation of Life and Job

Teams are shorthanded. Budgets are limited. Clients are taking forever to make decisions. But, time is of the essence. Competition is high. And there is no room for error – anywhere. We have more and more resources at our fingertips that are supposed to make our lives more efficient, but everybody I talk to tells me they are working harder than ever before.

So often, when I ask my candidates why they are looking to make a job change, they tell me “I am looking for a work-life balance.” At one time, that answer was code for “I want a job where I can earn a big salary, get lots of vacation time, and leave at 5pm without a worry in my head.”  But today, I think the answer translates more to “I want a job where I can earn a decent salary, take some of my allotted vacation time without feeling guilty, and leave for the day – maybe in time to see my kids before they go to sleep- even if it’s just a couple of nights a week.”

As I continue to talk to employers and job-seekers from coast-to-coast, one thing has become clear to me: many of them are feeling just plain burned-out. So many have been in survival mode, using every last bit of their adrenaline to push past the economic crisis to get to the light at the end of the tunnel…but the tunnel is feeling a bit longer than they thought it was.

We sleep with our smartphones, spend more hours at the office, and dedicate many nights and weekends glued to our laptops.  In a time where jobs are coveted, employee performance is scrutinized and companies have become more willing to make “difficult decisions,” how do you enjoy your personal time without feeling like you should be writing a plan or reading that report?

Just do it.

Just as you sent that calendar request to your team for the meeting at 2pm on Wednesday, accept the one for dinner with friends for tomorrow night. And about that vacation you want to take next fall?  Book the flight. You employer wooed you with extra vacation time – take it.  You’ll be doing both of you a favor. Get out for lunch at least once a week – you do have a lunch hour, you know. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to spend part of the weekend at Starbucks sans your laptop and file folders.

I recognize that many of you are shaking your heads while you’re reading this, and thinking “not in my company” or “much easier said, than done!” But, it’s almost impossible to be at your best without giving yourself a break. And sometimes we have to take it upon ourselves to remind our managers and mentees of this- because they need you to be at your best. These days, it may be up to you to advocate for yourself and work with your company to find realistic ways to create a better balance.

Remember, there will always be a lot to do and it will never be a good time. But, in most cases, barring major crises or unforeseen catastrophes, everyone and everything will be okay if you leave your phone in the other room for the night, go on that family vacation next summer or take next Friday off for a personal day. In fact, it might be just what you need to remind you of all the reasons you really do like your job.

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