Most companies today promote work/life balance as one of their priorities when trying to recruit new employees. But what does that really mean? Should we really be depending on corporate Canada to define what work/life balance is for each of us? Or should we be making our own path to the balance that we seek?
For the most part, we are aware of what our work priorities are on a daily basis. What we don’t know, we are told or we determine as the day progresses. Some days may be light in terms of our workload, and others may be quite heavy. It’s the heavy days that cause an imbalance and encroach on other parts of our lives if we let them. How many of us carry our laptops home at the end of the day to finish that very important report? What about those that stay at work well past a reasonable work day just to get caught up? Perhaps we are trying to get that promotion or rise in salary and feel the need to put in the hours, so that hopefully, our boss will recognize our efforts. Some people work from home when they are sick and others bring their laptops on vacation. We willingly give up precious time with family and friends in order to ‘get ahead’ in business, assuming that we will reach that point in life when we can be completely happy with where we are. But can our happiness be complete without a satisfactory personal life? How can the corporate world help us find our work/life balance if we don’t know even know what it is?
The first step would be to determine our ‘non-negotiables’. What parts of our life outside of work cannot be sacrificed for work? In other words, quality time with my children every evening before they go to bed is non-negotiable. Catching up on my favourite TV shows this season is not so important. However, someone without children may find that TV time alone or with that special person is their non-negotiable. Perhaps it provides them with that much needed downtime after a long day at work. We are the only ones that can decide what is right for us as individuals. Only we can ensure that the scale is not tipped too heavily to one side; especially the work side.
Single mother of two, Camille Williams has determined that being at home with her daughters as much as possible is her non-negotiable. As a CGA and the owner of Simplified Financials, she has worked hard to make sure this is the case as much as possible. “When I had my first child, I declared that she, and not work, was going to be my 1st priority. I quickly realized that many employers are not of the same mindset.” After the birth of her 2nd child she decided to take matters into her own hands. “I knew it would be difficult for me to have my ‘right’ balance with 2 children and a full-time job, so I started my own business. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, because it has allowed me the flexibility and freedom to set my own schedule and be there for my children”.
Once we have determined what parts of our personal life are non-negotiable, it is our responsibility to draw the proverbial line in the sand and not allow our jobs to encroach on those areas. No matter where we are in our professional lives; entry level positions, on the way up the corporate ladder or at the pinnacle of our career, we can never really experience complete fulfillment without others to share our successes and even failures with. Friends and family are what keep us grounded, give us support and renewed strength to take on new challenges each day. We need time to cultivate and nurture these relationships and we cannot do that if we are always working until the ‘wee’ hours of the night. When asked if she ever finds it difficult to maintain a healthy balance between work and her personal life, Williams had this to say “Whether you’re self employed or not, it’s always a struggle… If you’re self employed and not finding that balance, you must commit to having a meeting with yourself at the end of each week to evaluate how your time was spent, and to set goals for the coming week.”
This does not mean that we are not allowed to enjoy our careers. There is nothing wrong with loving what you do and looking forward to going to work. For those of us out there who feel this way…BRAVO! But who are you sharing your success with? Who are you regaling stories of your day to? Do the important people in your life; know that they are important in your life? Williams uses her own personal compass to determine if her work is disrupting her personal life “When my children come home, I know I need to spend a certain amount of time catching up on the day’s events with them, having dinner together and spending time. If a day goes by and none of that happens, I quickly realize that I may not have managed my time properly that day.”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines balance as “an aesthetically pleasing integration of elements” and also as “a weight of force of one side in excess of another”. We must all decide for ourselves what the most pleasant integration of the work and life elements are that will suit us. If our work is currently the force that is in excess, then we may need to re-evaluate our ‘non-negotiables’ and adjust the balance as needed. But it is our decision to make.
So…what’s tipping your scale?