Drop the balancing act: How to manage to have a life when you’re working
Balance, like a balanced diet or a less-than-exhilarating 'Body Balance' class, suggests moderation and being sensible. For those of you for whom 'moderation' conjures up images of that piece of chocolate you didn't allow yourself, here’s a better word: flexibility.
The notion of work-life balance came from a time when work could be switched off. When it was only possible to work from the office, where your job was for life. If you were switched on all the time in the same job for twenty years, your internal battery would run down faster than a greased-up Eddie the Eagle.
A millennial approach to work-life balance
But now, as a Nobel Prizewinner once said, “the times they are a-changin.’”
You may well be a millennial. If so, congratulations on orchestrating a birth after 1980 and not buying a house! If you’re not, you may be aware that millennials are shaping the job world with their post-1980 birthdays.
If you’re a millennial, you’re also likely to be a 'digital native,' meaning that technology is your language. You’ve grown up with it and are even bilingual too! You spend 7 hours a day or more online, according to July research.
For millennials a work life balance isn’t about clear separation anymore - millennials are always on and always multitasking. Collaborative workers and needing instant gratification, Millennials won’t wait until the morning to find out what’s happened to a project and they want to be on hand to help each other at all times. The boundaries between work and home blur when you’re constantly interconnected.
So we need something else. Step forward 'flexibility.'
Here are some new rules about work, life, the universe and… well… everything:
1) The number one piece of advice bandied about by everyone is as follows: switch off. Don’t answer emails after work. Don’t take calls after work. Fill your evenings with fun and don’t let the two areas of your life bleed into each other. You are Jekyll and Hyde, you are Hannah Montana. Your double life must be kept separate at all costs.
2) Should this fail, avoid stressing. Studies have pointed out that aiming for a work life balance can often make employees even more stressed than just working harder.
3) Broach the possibility of flexible working with your employer. You won’t be the first, back in 2014, The Guardian found that 81% of millennials think they should be able to set their own work patterns. Work remotely, work less, work from Skype. Whatever works for you.
4) Instead of presenteeism, aim for results. Presenteeism sounds fun- like it’s an addiction to gifting. Sadly, it’s actually about showing your face in the office but not really getting much done. Be more than just a pretty face- working fewer hours might help you become more productive.
“Productivity – output per working hour – improves with shorter hours” said The Guardian last year.
5) Don’t be an adrenalin bore. You might, at some point in your working life, feel invincible. You’ll change into your trainers under your desk and power through a gym class, a crazed look in your eye. Then you’re at the pub, shouting and pointing. The next day you’re in the office early, dong five tasks at once. You skip lunch. You think you’ve become invincible. The truth is that you’re probably running on adrenalin alone and you're due a crash some time soon.
6) Know when balance becomes burnout and don’t pretend you’re immune to tiredness. Chances are, unless you’re the Duracell bunny, you probably do need occasional sleeps or you’ll get a bit- you know. Tired.