The United States stands out among our peers as a country that is incredibly hard on our work force. Vacation taken by employees decreased by 24 percent from 2000 to 2013, paid sick or family leave is not mandated by the government, and paid parental leave for both parents is far behind other developed countries.
So what does this mean for the American worker? It means that we’re spending more time working, often sacrificing time with family, friends and even ourselves. Harvard Business School and Stanford University found that having a high stress job and working long hours increased the odds of having a physician-diagnosed illness by 35 percent and increased the chances of an early death by almost 20 percent.
The good news is that people are starting to push back. Companies like Google, Microsoft and Netflix are offering extremely competitive maternity leave, paid time off and amazing on-site benefits. Unfortunately, this is still not the norm. America has a long way to go, but while it’s catching up, here are five things you can do to improve your work-life balance today!
1. Schedule Downtime
Similar to the idea of “paying yourself first” when budgeting, you need to schedule relaxation into your day. Whether you prefer diving into a book, a good television show or a hot bath, make sure you’re taking some “you” time on a regular basis. Those that depend on you at work and at home will be better off – once you’re in a good place, you’re more able to be supportive and helpful to others.
2. Know Your Boundaries
We all have things we have to do, things we enjoy doing and things that we dread. Know what you enjoy and what you don’t. Sure, you probably can’t dump all your not-so-great responsibilities (the house probably isn’t going to clean itself) but there is probably room to trim down.
3. Say No
From coworkers asking you to take lead on a new committee to a friend’s request for a bar buddy, it is perfectly acceptable to say no when you need to. If you often find yourself ridden with guilt or obligation whenever favors are asked of you, we recommend saying you’ll consider it and then evaluating whether the added time and potential stress are worth it. It might be hard the first few times but saying no will come easier with time and those around you will learn to respect your boundaries.
4. Leave Work at Work
We know sometimes projects run over into the night or even the weekend, but these times should be an exception, not the rule. Focus on your work when you’re in the office and then leave it there. Taking a step away will make you come back refreshed and ready to kick butt the next day.
5. Reduce Email Access
With the advent of the omnipresent smart phone, many of us have access to our work emails 24/7. Unfortunately, this has led to a mentality that we must be accessible 24/7, even when we’re relaxing with friends or on a family vacation. Turning off your work email sync, even if it’s just on the weekend, will help you create a separation between work-time and you-time.
What does work-life balance mean to you?