CENTRES OF ATTENTION What does ‘perfect’ balance look like to you?
Many people make a New Year’s resolution to achieve a better ‘work-life balance’. The term has been known for a long time, but it garnered a whole new following throughout the pandemic when workers all around the world were forced to balance working from home.
Many of us struggled to keep all the plates spinning and give adequate attention to work and everything else that was vying for a piece of us. Does turning off email notifications after work help you maintain this balance? Or are you in a strong position whereby work doesn’t spill over into daily life?
You can’t think about implementing a work-life balance without a focus on boundaries, which will look different to everyone.
Maybe yours is that you have to be gone out of the office by 5pm every evening, no exceptions. Is it imperative that you take a full lunch break despite the work waiting at your desk?
Email signatures sometimes include a disclaimer, ‘I’m sending this email now because it suits me, but please don’t feel any pressure to respond outside of your working hours’. Sounds good, right? But as the recipient you had to read or at least scroll to the end of the email to see that line. In one sense this completely defeats your boundary, because consciously or not, the information will be holding space in your head.
In recent times Meghan Markle has been accosted for supposedly sending emails to her staff at 5am in the morning. There are two main responses to situations similar to this. Some might feel immense pressure to always be ‘on’ and available to respond to their senior’s every request. But for others, they may have no problem leaving it sitting unread in their inbox to be actioned during the working day. How would you be most likely to respond?
We will never know whether Meghan actually expected an immediate response to these mails, but once you have solid boundaries it won’t matter either way. Your boundaries are primarily to benefit your life, not your boss’s. And a workforce that encourages boundaries will reap the benefits also as they build an environment where their workers are supported to avoid burnout and stress.
You might have heard of the growing trend of ‘quiet quitting’, which refers to workers doing the bare minimum and not engaging additional time or effort than is necessary. Whilst it is a new way of describing this trend, there have always been employees who conform to this and follow their contract to a T, nothing more.
The pandemic reinforced this. Workers had time to reflect on where they were dedicating their time and energy and to consider whether it was going to the right places. It led to people evaluating their priorities; was work coming ahead of family and health? Many workers are tired of pushing themselves to their limit with little or no reward, and instead are putting their health and wellbeing first.
The question here is are people wrong to do this? Or is ‘quiet quitting’ one way of setting boundaries?
An esteemed life coach I know likes to reverse the phrase so it’s your ‘life-work balance’ – firmly laying the importance on the life aspect by putting it first. There is no denying that our relationship with work takes up a significant part of our lives, but it is not its entirety. Don’t get so caught up in work that life passes you by, and begin to share some of your energy with the other important relationships in your life such as family and friends.
If like thousands of others you wish to improve your work-life balance, consider what the ‘perfect’ balance would look like to you.
Sadhbh Dunne is a qualified life coach based in Westport.
She is the founder of Ember Coaching (embercoaching.ie) and can be reached at email@example.com.