In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed to make a typical workday more tolerable. Prior to that, a typical workday was 11-16 hours long. The FLSA made the eight-hour work day and 40-hour work week the standard.
In addition, economists predicted time spent with work would continue to decrease. They were right. Initially. From the 1940s through to the 50s, work weeks continued to shrink. In 1958 many economists and futurists predicted our work week would be just a few, short days by the 21st century. And, if we did happen to continue to work 40 to 50 hours, our retirement would arrive early – in our late 30s.
So, what happened? Our work weeks are now longer – in fact, the average is about 10-hours each week longer. And, for many reading this blog, your week is greater than that.
I’ve done a little digging and have found that we can, indeed, achieve the same standard of living as those workers of 1948 in only half the time.
But, we’re choosing to work longer hours. Why? This could be for a myriad of reasons. Some say it’s because we live in a society of consumption, while others say producing satisfies certain needs. Recent studies show that for half of both men and women, recognition and autonomy – ahead of money – is the determining factor for how they view their success.
It is obvious that there exist different motivations for different people, during different phases of their lives to work long, hard hours.
It is equally as obvious that most everyone wants to both enjoy life and to achieve success. The challenge many of us are facing is work can easily become the main focus, so that we begin to neglect our personal lives. It would not take much to damage the relationships we hold dear.
Many Americans are also experiencing rising stress levels and negative health ramifications when working too much. Sometimes, even reduced productivity can result – which is the antithesis of what we’re striving for.
To realize our professional goals, without negatively impacting our own happiness, means a deliberate work-life balance must be achieved and maintained. It’s crucial to our health and well-being – both to us and to those around us.
In his Psychology Today article Are You a Workaholic? Dr. Brad Klontz suggested we consider the following suggestions to determine if, perhaps, our work may be occupying too much of our time, to our detriment:
- Take the ‘rocking chair test.’ Picture yourself retired, on your front porch looking back on your life. Honestly ask yourself on which pursuits you would have liked to have spent more time.
- Challenge your traditional thinking regarding your work. Many times, we think everything we have to do is crucial and that the world would fall off its access if they didn’t get done. But, really, would it?
- You may not realize how absorbed you are in your work and how that affects those in your world. Ask them. And, hear their responses.
- Research your family work history to see if you notice a familial pattern. Attempt to become aware of the consequences that might have had on other family relationships.
Now, let’s take a look at what a positive work-life balance looks like.
An article at Worklife Balance entitled Work-Life Balance Defined explains very succinctly what work-life balance is: [A] meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in each of my four life quadrants: work, family, friends and self.
This article also defined what work-life balance is not.
- Work-life balance does not mean an equal balance.
- Your best individual work-life balance will vary over time.
- There is no perfect, one-size fits all, balance to strive for.
So, how do you do it? How do you create a healthy work-life balance? Of course, I have some tricks I use, but I wanted to find some new ideas that I might not have thought of. This is important to me, as I am sure it is to you.
After scouring the web, and finding some pretty strange ideas, I finally located a fairly comprehensive list at Salary.com. Needless-to-say, this list is not all-inclusive. But, maybe you could try a couple or a few to see what might work for you..
- Set your priorities
- Track your time
- Concentrate on one thing at a time
- Schedule one thing you look forward to each day
- Protect your private time
- Take a look at your personal habits and general lifestyle
- Take a vacation
- Ask for support
- Get plenty of exercise
- Set boundaries
- Find a mentor
- Learn how to say “no”
Appropriating this list – or any portion of it – into your life will take a little practice and getting used to. No doubt, you will have to make a few tweaks. So, evaluate your work-life balance on a regular basis and make sure it’s working for you and those closest to you.
I recently stumbled upon a new term – work-life blend in an article by Ron Ashkenas in Forbes. Mr. Ashkenas believes the days of work-life balance are virtually over. His opinion is that we ought to go ahead and just blend our work and our personal lives – and quit trying to balance them – since the two seem to constantly intermingle.
He believes we ought to accept the new norm – which is a life of seamless integration of the two. His two implications include:
- We can quit feeling guilty about participating in work activities at home, and vice versa.
- We need to learn how be more flexible as to how we organize our time to accomplish all of our goals.
I’m not sure I can agree with blending my work and personal lives. To me, that’s like giving in to the pressures of having to produce. There has to be delineation. There has to be time that is sacred. And, as guilty as I feel when I do it – I must learn to relax and even to rest. As the character Vivian in Pretty Woman said, “Be still like vegetables. Lay like broccoli.”
What do you think? Balancing or blending? Please comment and let me know.