Work-Life Balance: Hit by a Bus Theory
Bridie Slater | Recruiter in London, UK
I spent much of my youth living by the ‘You could get hit by a bus tomorrow’ theory. As wonderful as this theory is, reality set in when my dad sat me down and said, “But what happens if you never get hit by a bus?”. It is not that I hadn’t considered surviving more than the next 24 hours, or that I had some ingrained fear of buses, my fear was the impossible task that is achieving work-life balance.
Growing up, my parents had an average commute time of 10 minutes (and that was cycling), 90% of the time they were both home by 6pm, and not once did I see a laptop or work phone on a family holiday. Yet they both managed, and continue, to prosper in their careers. I know it was rare then, but today that sounds impossible to many of us. So how do we strike a true balance?
I was inspired to write this after hearing Mark Okerstrom answer the question, “What tips would you give for maintaining a work-life balance?”. His answer left me thinking; if the CEO of one of the world’s largest travel platforms can maintain a balance, then so can we.
I have stolen some of the below from Mark’s response (sorry Mark!) but I wanted to share some advice on how it can be achieved.
or then go home
As a wise colleague once said to me,
“When you are here, you are very here. When you go, you are very good at going.”.
Whether it was meant as one or not, I took this as a compliment. Give your all at work, then give your all at home. It is about the quality you give at work not the quantity of time you are there. Eliminate multitasking, the key is being present.
Aim for an Existential Balance
Unfortunately, the reality of the modern world is that a daily work-life balance is hard to achieve and not always the best option. Instead of aiming to only work ‘9 to 5’, focus on the bigger picture of getting a balance throughout your existence. You will have months in certain roles where you work crazy hours. Don’t get caught up on these months. In other months, do not feel guilty to take time back. Give yourself a reason to take the time back.
If you are reading this I am assuming you consider yourself a ‘good worker’ and are committed (sometimes too much) to your work. Your employer trusts you to get the job done. So, now it is time to trust yourself to know when it is okay to switch off. You hear so many excuses about managers, stakeholders or colleagues being the cause of a poor work-life balance. Take responsibility, you are in control and only you can change it.
Build Your Boundaries
In relationships, you have boundaries that, if crossed, would damage them. This should be no different for the relationship between your work and your life. Put blockers in place that, no matter what, stay in place. Have constants in your life such as gym classes, days you get a certain train or work from home. Not only does this mean your colleagues will work around them, but it is also a good measure to judge if your work-life balance is getting out of control. Work will always be there tomorrow, friends may not.
I have heard on so many occasions the fear in people about losing their jobs. Yet, rarely do people mention the fear of losing elements of their life. The consequences of a poor work-life balance on your personal life can be so much greater. If you were to spend an extra 10 hours a week on seeing friends, doing activities, or sleeping in, do you think your manager would put up with it? Yet we expect our loved ones, our hobbies, and ourselves to be okay with working an extra 10 hours per week. Think about the consequences of putting work first for your family, friends and even your health. Is it worth the risk of damaging any of those?
There will always be the people who want to work their way through life, let them. None of this is revolutionary, and although attempting to have a work-life balance can be a full-time job, it is actually pretty simple. Ask yourself, “If not now, when?” will you put life first.
So hopefully, I will not get hit by a bus tomorrow, but on a serious note, the damage from a poor work-life balance can be nearly as irreversible. And as someone somewhere once said…
“You can always make more money, but you can never make more time”