The Small, Individual Approach to Achieving Work-Life Balance
Updated: Sep 3
We live in a society that praises work—overpraises it. Hardly ever do you see a tv show where the character leaves work before dark. Our society is “married to the job,” which has resulted in shifts and schisms in relationships.
One of my favorite tv shows, the only one that comes to mind, depicts work-life balance: Gilmore Girls. Lorelei, the single mother of a 16 teen-year-old, runs an inn, has a strong relationship with her child, is actively involved with her community, dates, enjoys her friendships, and takes time for herself.
Now, this is fiction, not reality, however, the depiction should be the standard. In fact, as Bob Dylan sings, “The times they are a-changing.” And they are!
While the American work ethic is still prevalent, there is a major shift in values, especially for work-life balance, i.e. quality time with family. There is speculation that this shift is due to the terrorist attack in 2001. The shock of the event, loss of thousands of lives, and the dramatic media portrayal created this need to have strong familial ties. Because this event showed us that nothing is permanent, Americans are no longer going to sacrifice family for work.1
The fact that there are work-life specialists being employed by businesses is evidence enough that times are changing. The original need for creating a work-life balance by policy was to create more productivity during work hours. Employers wanted their employees healthy, so they started with health insurance, maternity leave, PTO, etc. to boost morale and productivity.
While these are noble efforts, work-life balance is more an individual issue that affects the organization rather than the other way around.2 That is to say, the individual also needs to put some “policies” into place in their own life because the one-size-fits-all approach does not always fit. We all have different needs in different phases of our lives, don’t we?
There are two simple “policies” you can implement in your life right now to achieve work-life balance.
Because we have so much in ways of communication through technology, sometimes it seems like the workday never ends, allowing work to bleed into your time at home.3 Not unplugging allows the emails to keep coming in, the slack channel to keep buzzing, or zoom meetings to last longer, etc. This is especially challenging due to the pandemic and the increase of remote work. Follow your workday schedule religiously and unplug immediately at five, or four, or seven.
Another reason to unplug: blue-light emission. Our phones, tablets, and computers emit a blue light that is harmful to your eyes. Making sure you are unplugged at home can help your eye health, but also your sleeping habits. Being on your phone before bed actually makes it harder to relax and fall asleep because blue-light reduces melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle, making it difficult to fall asleep and wake up.4
At Fresh Air Cleaning, I was able to experience the benefit of not having a phone first-hand. You don’t have to sit by your phone during the day because the work happens at the client’s home. Just make sure to check your Zenmaid app ahead of time for the locations you’ll be headed to during the day.
Tips & Tricks: turn off work notifications, use blue-light glasses, and turn your phone into it’s charging dock an hour before bedtime.
There is so much research out there about the benefits of exercise. Even just one minute is proven to be beneficial. Your body needs those happy hormones. You do not need a gym membership or be a gym rat. Exercising can be simple: walk, run, or a circuit of push-ups and crunches. You can do it from home! Set aside 30 minutes a day. The payoff is worth the effort.
Tips & Tricks: If you need help with exercising, phone a friend! A partner always makes it easier and more enjoyable. You could also find a career that isn’t sedentary. Find something that makes you move around, lift, bend, do the twist, whatever. A benefit of working for Fresh Air Cleaning, which I can only speak from experience, is getting a mini work out from vacuuming, lifting equipment, and cleaning. They also provide pads and other products to make it easier on your knees and back.
Work-life balance is attainable! Just start with two simple steps or the consequences of poor work-life balance can be severe: fatigue, poor health, and lost time with loved ones. If this is not something you want, then consider starting with the small steps of unplugging and exercising.
Start your path to a balanced life.
1 Lockwood, N. R. (2003). Work/Life Balance: Challenges and Solutions. SHRM Research Quarterly.
2 Bird, J. (2006). Employment Relations Today, Autumn 2006, vol. 33, no. 3. Copyright 2006, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
3 Mayo Clinic. Work-life balance: Tips to Reclaim Control. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/work-life-balance/art-20048134
4 SLC Health. Why it is Time to Ditch the Phone Before Bed. Life and Mind Categories. https://www.sclhealth.org/blog/2019/09/why-it-is-time-to-ditch-the-phone-before-bed/#:~:text=Numerous%20studies%20have%20found%20that%20using%20your%20phone,fall%20asleep%20and%20wake%20up%20the%20next%20day.