Most professionals struggle with work-life balance, in general. But the COVID-19 crisis could be making an existing problem even worse. From late night emails, weekend conference calls, and even to working on vacation, it’s easy to see why so many of us having a hard time distinguishing work from life. However, there are some incredible, career advancing perks that stem from being the “go-to guy” day or night. So how can you find the balance? Ask yourself the following questions!
1. When Can You Call? Whether it’s a quick question or a time-sensitive emergency on a project with a fast-approaching deadline, you haven’t made it clear when it’s okay for your boss or coworkers to call you and now you’re getting phone calls all night long. Rather than saying you’re never available for phone calls outside of work hours, try asking that phone calls only be used for high-stakes, time sensitive priorities. That way, if you hear your phone buzzing or have a missed call, you know it needs to be addressed ASAP and it isn’t something that can wait until the following work day. This will not only help give you a better work/life balance by reducing the amount of phone calls you get in any given evening but it will also help you know when an emergency is occurring with one of your projects and let you respond to it quickly. With this policy in play you’re more reliable and you’re also more relaxed!
2. How Important Is This Email? If phone calls are for time sensitive emergencies then emails should be for everything else. If notifications piling up on your email from your personal phone stress you out so much that you can’t help but open it and start sifting through your work email in your personal time you should consider switching your work email to a separate device—preferably one that isn’t always glued to you like your personal phone—so that you can have easy access to work email when you need it without feeling that extra stress. Another way to limit the urge to deal with work email in your personal time is to allow it to happen but only at a certain frequency. This means you decide whether you want to check your work email during your personal time once on the weekends, every other day, or even once every evening. Make sure there’s a time limit set and don’t let yourself get caught up in small hassles that can easily be addressed the next day at work.
3. Which Hours Are Off Limits? Personal time that is separate from work has been found to reduce stress and make you more productive. Whether you’re out with family, friends, or simply enjoying a night in working on a personal project or hobby, setting hours that are off limits (unless it’s an absolute, everything is burning to the ground emergency) will help others know when you are checked out and unavailable. Should you be off limits during all of your personal hours? Probably not. Should you be off limits during none of your personal hours? Of course not! Decide what balance you’d like to strike and let it be known. Also, give a little room for flexibility as some weeks may be more work focused (with a big project deadline) and others may be more personally focused (with family in town for a big event.)
4. What Kind of Vacation Will You Have? Although there are plenty of great ways you can balance work with a vacation, you don’t necessarily need to work while you’re on vacation. It’s up to you to decide if you’d like to spend a few extra hours in the office as you gear up towards a vacation to make sure all of your work is done or delegated. Otherwise you may be stuck spending some of your vacation time working. Gage your personal preferences with the amount of projects you have going on and consult with your boss or manager to determine the best approach well before your vacation actually begins.
5. Who Steps Up if You Don’t? If you’re drawing clear lines about your availability during vacation and personal time it may be up to others to pick up the slack. Always consider your coworkers when you’re determining when you’ll be available because, if you aren’t, your work may fall to them and cause them to have an increasingly out of whack work/life balance. Being considerate of their time as well as your own will reduce resentment and allow for a more friendly work atmosphere.
You don’t want work you define all of your personal time but you also don’t want to be seen as lazy or unreliable. How can you strike the perfect work/life balance? It’s different in every individual case but, if you ask yourself the aforementioned five questions, you should be able to determine the best approach for you.