exploring possibilities for an engaging and productive workplace

So, what is Work Life Balance? It's a phrase I've heard over and over again, one that often stirs up controversy, but I'll get to that in another post.  I define it as finding balance between work life and the rest of my life. Personal Sustainability is something else I hear regularly, and it's similar. I describe it as finding a balance that enables you to continue doing whatever it is you do (work, family, volunteering, etc.). Oddly, I'm not seeing a wikipedia entry for Personal Sustainability, so please comment with alternative definitions.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has a Work Life Balance Quiz you can take to see how balanced you are. I scored a 10, which is the top end of the scale for Barely Balanced. Interestingly, I fully expected to be labeled as On the Right Track! otherwise known as totally balanced. For context I'm currently working part-time, in graduate school, and married. Before starting grad school, I was married, working full-time, and often spent 60+hrs at the office-- doing a job that I loved supporting a mission I believed in. Maybe I'm not completely balanced, but I've certainly improved. By exposing some of my biases, I hope you can read this in context and shine a new perspective on your own Work Life Balance.

A couple of weeks ago, Nina from Secretariaint posted a great question, I'm curious to know if you have any thoughts on those who take too much joy in their work and become imbalanced in their personal lives?

My friend, who's a new mom, emailed me with a similar response, I’ve been enjoying your blog, especially as I re-evaluate my relationship with work. How do I chose between a baby I adore and a mission I believe in? (If this question resonates with you, check out the Work.Life.Balance blog)

First, these are questions that we all have to answer for ourselves and the answers will be different for everyone. These questions also hit home as they speak to a situation I've experienced myself, see above comment about working 60+hr work weeks and loving my job.

I was able to cut my hours down to a standard 40 by realizing that I do my best work when I take breaks, eat lunch, and go home. If I could do these things, I would show up at work feeling refreshed, so my time spent working was much more productive. This also helped me approach work related stress from a centered and rested place, ultimately contributing to a more positive attitude and healthy relationships with co-workers-- even during crunch times.

In hindsight, this all sounds easy, but it wasn't. At work, I was changing the world and I loved it! Everyday I was working to improve people's lives, reduce stress, promote wellness, lower emissions, reduce carbon footprints, and much more. Cutting down from 60 to 40 hours a week was a pain staking process filled with fear and doubt. Here's a snapshot of what was going through my head at the time: What if I let my co-workers down? If I don't do it who will? If it doesn't get done today, when will it? I can't say no, what if they fired me? What if I don't spend enough time with my husband? How the hell am I going to do all of this when school starts?  YIKES...

Ultimately I had a lot of help in changing my outlook on work. I met with a coach who helped me understand Work Life Balance and draw boundaries. She challenged my thinking by asking tough questions about my values, my actions, and where these things were poorly aligned. I sought out co-workers who took pride in their work, did a great job AND took their lunch breaks before going home on time. I read books on stress and found out that I was a really stressed out individual, which isn't the life I wanted for myself. So I'll be the first person to admit that Work Life Balance doesn't come easily to everyone.

What are your thoughts on Work Life Balance and Personal Sustainability? Share your stories, ideas, and questions in the comments.

This is part 1 of a series on this topic, so stay tuned for more...

3 responses to "Work Life Balance (part 1 of 3)"

  1. Great post Bria and thanks for the link to the quiz. I scored a 6 but I wasn't too surprised. I had real difficulty in separating work from school since both of them command so much attention. I'm hoping to get closer to double digits after June.



    michael b.

  2. Letting down your co-workers is the oddest and most difficult sensation when trying to scale back on work. It's difficult to measure the marginal gain made in those last 20 hours, but it's probably safe to say they aren't as effective as the first 20 or the middle 20 in terms of the amount and quality of work you generate. Despite that saying that you want a balance while everyone else grinds away makes you look lazy or uncommitted, which I feel is far from the truth. Finding a good balance requires both a pull from employee and a push from employer, or there will always be a tension when you work less than someone else. Thanks for the great post Bria!


  3. Great post I'll definitely share this with my colleagues. Thanks.
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