I, just like everyone else, want it all. There is nothing I would like more than a fulfilling job that allows me the time and means to live my life outside the office and eventually (a long while from now) have children and spend time with them. This is what the work-life balance is for me – work happens at work, life happens everywhere else. Problems seem to occur when work seeps into life and ruins things for both of them. As mentioned in several of the articles for this week, when we work non-stop we become less productive and less happy. When work takes the place of life, we burnout and can’t do either as well as we could otherwise.
I have dealt with minor cases of burnout throughout my university career. It is often necessary to work practically non-stop to keep up with classes, extra curriculars. Whenever I start to feel that the workload is too much, I tend to take more breaks. I’ve found running, naps, and meditation to be the best activities to get myself back to a mental state where I can give my whole energy to a problem. I am especially a fan of sleeping. Not only is my mind more clear when I am well rested, but I also feel happier and healthier in general. Of course, regular exercise also helps with this, and meditation is kind of like a nap in how it can refresh you by clearing your head for a bit. If we all could make time to take more intentional, quality breaks, we would more productive and feel better.
Companies can promote balance and, I would think, boost productivity by encouraging regular breaks from work and providing facilities and resources to to take intentional, quality breaks. It’s a Silicon Valley stereotype to have the ping-pong tables, free food, and comfortable break-rooms, but I think this is one place where the tech companies are getting it right. Where they seem to be lacking is in providing the proper means and encouragement to take breaks and work a healthy amount of hours during the week. I don’t know if companies are ethically obligated to make sure their employees aren’t spending their whole lives at the office (unless those employees do not have the mobility to find another job that would not require this), but as Amanda Ruggeri suggests in The Compelling Case for Working a lot Less, I imagine they would get a greater degree of productivity from their employees and possibly a greater degree of loyalty to the company. I think one of the best things companies can do to prevent burnout or overworking is to have executives and managers who set the tone by working a healthy amount of hours when possible and thereby encourage their coworkers to do the same.
I want a perfect work-life balance. I don’t know if such a thing exists, and if it does I doubt I’ll find it anytime soon. I do, however, hope that a strong work ethic tempered by a healthy perspective will help me to operate at maximum productivity and still have the energy to live when I leave the office for the night.