Amy Marcum | Insperity
Often, the development of new technology, including cell phones and other advancements that allow for remote access to work, come with the promise of increased efficiency and reduced time demands. In many ways, the opposite has occurred. All of this increased accessibility has resulted in blurred boundaries between work and personal time leaving some employees feeling they are almost always on the clock.
Competitive job environments can make matters worse. Employees may find themselves unable to escape the pressures of work as emails and other work items invade the evening hours. The collision between professional and personal life can cause emotional stress, anxiety and even depression.
Many times, employees experiencing work-life balance issues are attempting to conform to the so-called “ideal worker” archetype. They arrive early and leave late and often feel as though they are on call 24/7.
The most extreme situations involve organizations where employees are highly competitive and/or lack a feeling of job security. According to data from the Pew Research Center, Americans believe job security is on the decline. Approximately 63 percent say the average working person in the U.S. feels less secure now than they did 20 or 30 years ago.
Longer hours in the office often do not translate into higher productivity levels. Organized employees prioritize their work and in doing so, they generate maximum time return on investment during the workday.
Here are three key signs that an employee is experiencing faulty work-life balance:
A perceived lack of downtime
As mentioned previously, some employees stretch themselves beyond the limit when seeking to be perceived as an ideal employee. These workers often feel they lack authority to say “no” or the right to push back on any request that impedes on their personal time. Employees in this situation are consumed by their occupations. They constantly think about work outside of office hours, and work thoughts even invade their dreams.
Others notice a problem
In many cases, those closest to an employee overly engaged in work will be the first to notice. When family members, close friends or others are lamenting about missed obligations or social activities, work-life imbalance issues are often to blame.
Skipping lunch and staying late are often common behaviors for those with a work-life imbalance. As a result, others might see a change in appearance, such as weight gain or noticeable fatigue. Sick days may increase and once mild-mannered employees might become irritable. Health experts have also noted a wide range of issues associated with occupational stress, from cardiovascular disease to psychological disorders.
Once a work-life problem has been identified, here are a few strategies to achieve a better balance:
Improved time organization
Longer hours in the office often do not translate into higher productivity levels. Organized employees prioritize their work and in doing so, they generate maximum time return on investment during the workday. Time management and delegation skills are also critical in achieving efficiency during the workday.
Talk to a manager
Employees who believe that work life too frequently invades personal time should speak up. Many companies already have policies in place to address these types of concerns. Longtime employees with a good track record should not be afraid to inquire about opportunities for flextime or working from home on occasion. A shared workplace understanding about whether certain after-hours emails require immediate response is also helpful.
Minimizing distractions, such as checking personal social media feeds or reducing interruptions in a noisy workplace, can also improve productivity and reduce the chances that work life will overlap into home life.
Identify unreasonable expectations
When employees learn to proactively respond to unrealistic expectations, they are also able to forgive themselves for not getting everything completed on their to-do lists. When a worker is able to prioritize high-value activities over more trivial matters, opportunities for greater productivity increase.
Prioritize personal matters
When a worker fails to engage with family, friends, social activities or hobbies it can be difficult to stay energized and excited about life. Becoming a little selfish with time is critical for achieving work-life balance. To do that, employees should develop the ability to prioritize. They should also be prepared to say “no” to non-mission critical tasks. When a worker is able to dismiss nonessential to-do items, time opens up to take care of themselves through exercise, family events, hobbies or relaxation.
The author, Amy Marcum, is Senior Human Resource Specialist with Insperity. She may be reached at Amy.Marcum@insperity.com or (888) 808-8842.