Work-life balance is a tricky thing to opine upon. In the abstract, it’s kind of meaningless. It’s not like you can say, “1.5 hours of work is the equivalent of 2.2 hours of conscious life (removing sleep from the equation), and I’m at work for 9.5 hours a day on average, and my commute is about 1.25 hours per day each way, and it takes me about 0.45 hours to de-brief my spouse on the work day when I get home, and I’m usually awake for 17.5 hours a day, so that means I must stay awake an extra 0.94 hours each day in order to get my work and life in balance.”
Phew. Not that simple.
But you can make the concept of having an appropriate work/life balance a lot easier to get your hands around by asking yourself three simple questions:
1. What’s important to me in my life? A certain level of physical fitness is more important to some people than others, for example. A need for quality child care, or flexible works hours, may be crucial for working parents. We walk around with ideas about what’s important to us in our heads, but until we stop to put them down on paper, and get clear on our life priorities, assessing the current state of your work-life balance is difficult.
2. Does my current position meet my needs? It might – you may not have explored enough to know for sure. (Seriously. When’s the last time you really read through your company’s Employee Handbook? Like, never?) To go along with examples cited above, does your company (or its health plan) offer a gym membership benefit? Can you telecommute, get on-site child care, work 4/40 or 9/80 schedules, or start and end your days earlier?
3. What’s it worth to you? If your job can’t meet the needs you say are important, you need to ask yourself the hard questions, all of which boil down to the “What’s it worth?” idea. It’s a gut check – “Do I really need it? Do I need it so much that I’m willing to start a job search to find a company that can meet the need?”
Unfortunately, this isn’t easy for everyone, and people get tied up by the expectations the important people in their lives – whether those expectations are stated outright or just assumed.
And that’s “balance” for you.