In the past, we’ve featured a great number of companies that are top-of-the-line when it comes to offering solutions for work-life balance. These companies want their employees to truly find a healthy differentiation in their work and personal lives. We love the effort they put into helping their employees create the life they want to live — they’re truly holding up their end of the deal.
So, if you’re one of those lucky people who work for a company that values work-life balance, take a moment and reflect: are these solutions helping you be successful in finding that balance? If your answer is yes, well then you’ve hacked the game. But if your answer is no, coming to that conclusion probably feels a little uncomfortable. Why do I have so many opportunities to create a work-life balance, but I don’t feel it?
It’s because you haven’t found the balance in your head.
Hear me out on this. Unlimited PTO, flexible working location and flexible working hours are awesome. There’s no doubt there. But what does it matter if you can take a week off in July without affecting your remaining days of PTO for the rest of the year when you’re sitting on the beach thinking about work?
Let’s actually find work-life balance
Over the years I’ve experienced a smorgasbord of work-life balance solutions. Things like a concierge service to run errands for you, an in-house dry cleaning service, and even the ability to purchase a full Thanksgiving meal to pick up the day before without your family knowing you didn’t spend even a minute slaving over the stove. All great things, right? These solutions, along with the aforementioned unlimited PTO and flexible working arrangements, should make the balancing act a piece of cake. But they rarely have.
I’ve always been one to take advantage of these solutions as well — using every last drop of PTO possible, working from coffee shops, flexing my hours to start my day paddle boarding instead of at my computer — but I can honestly say that I’ve rarely felt a work-life balance.
Until recently, it hit me that I wasn’t holding up my end of the deal. And that it comes down to three things:
1. Being present during time away from work
True work-life balance comes from mentally turning off “work mode” in your head, and being fully present in your personal life. That means making the conscious choice to not let thoughts about work creep into your head when you’re not there. This positive self-talk will only help to condition your mind to make the separation more natural. And the key here is to be kind to yourself, especially when you first start this practice.
This doesn’t need to be complicated, either. When you’re sitting at the beach and a work-worry pops in your head, you say to yourself, “I’m not at work right now and don’t need to be focused on this. When I log back in on Monday, I will take care of it then.” And if you need to jot down a note, or write yourself an email as a reminder, do it! Then forget about it.
2. Setting boundaries and avoiding comparison
I’m a pretty motivated person and want to have a successful and fulfilling career. Unfortunately, in our society, that often means working nonstop to reach career goals, having five mentors, becoming a chairperson for an organization board, volunteering, networking, being a thought leader on LinkedIn, and the list goes on. These are all really great aspirations, but to pile each one of these and more onto our plate can easily lead to burnout.
Take some time to reflect on what is truly important to you, what you can realistically accomplish, and then set the boundaries for everything else. Make sure to adjust these goals regularly to keep up with your ever-changing personal life. Most importantly — be comfortable with your decisions and don’t compare your actions to others. It’s okay to be in awe of another person, but remember you aren’t them and they aren’t you. Do what works for you.
3. Determining if your current company has the right culture for the work-life balance you need.
Part of granting yourself the ability to have a personal life is working in a culture that genuinely promotes it. That means little political game-playing, honest and open conversations, and basic respect for one another. If you’re working in an environment where they say they want you to have a personal life, but their actions don’t match, you’ll probably always lose that game.
I worked for a company that had endless work-life solutions and touted itself as a great company for work-life balance. But inside those walls, it was a ruthless climb to the top and anyone who wasn’t “working on themselves” was seen as a failure or lazy. This is simply not true. Don’t let your company define what work-life balance, or success, mean to you.
In the end, finding the right balance for you is what matters. Balance doesn’t look the same for everyone and that’s okay, but it’s important to define it for yourself. And if part of that journey means looking for a new job with a company that has the culture you need, do it. That’s how I arrived at Purpose Jobs.