March 14, 2014

The Importance Of Having A Good Work Life Balance

Having a good work-life balance

At the pace that I produce content, you would think that all I do around here is blog. Don’t get me wrong, I work incredibly hard on this blog and any guest blogging opportunity that I get, and the truth is, I do put out a lot of content.

But most of my time is really invested in the product. Things like supporting our current customers, and working with the developers internally on road mapping and product vision.

I have an insane amount of passion for what we do, and what Officevibe is trying to achieve.

The two cofounders, Dan and Jeff, are laser focused on improving other people’s workplaces, and they’re very serious about it. It’s really quite beautiful to see that kind of passion for doing something so good.

One of the many tasks that I do here is provide customer support, and I try my best to be as quick and helpful when I respond. Here’s an example of me providing support to one of our customers in Spain, on a Sunday:

We're going to discuss work life balance in our blog
Something I’ve been noticing lately while providing support, is a recurring theme of overworking, deadlines, and stress. In the last few weeks I’ve been getting a lot of responses like this:
Here's Jacob Shriar showing his commitment to amazing customer service
This makes me wonder, are most of us trapped in a vicious circle?

How can we ever expect to find happiness at work if we don’t take the time to do it? If we don’t put in the effort?

I always hated when people told me they didn’t have time for something, because I always called BS.

What I used to say to them, was if your wife, kids, girlfriend, whatever asked you to do something, you would drop everything and do it. There’s an important lesson here. We find the time to do what we want if we really want to.

Do you not want to have a better experience at work? I honestly don’t get it. When I see someone invite their co worker to start using Officevibe, and they say to them that “they don’t have time”, I honestly feel sorry for them.

Of course my opinion is biased, because I’m part of the team behind Officevibe, but I believe so much in what we do.

You could argue that the platform is not exactly where it needs to be and there are literally hundreds of feature ideas that we have to make it better, but the broader goal, or broader mission of Officevibe is so powerful.

Put simply, we want to improve work. We believe that everyone should be healthy, happy and productive at work . For the majority of people, that’s simply not the case.

I think one of the reasons why we’ve seen so many users come on board recently is because people believe in our vision. Remember, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

The Importance Of Work Life Balance

Too many of us don’t understand the importance of balancing work and our personal lives. Too many of us focus way too much on work, and neglect our personal lives, ruining relationships with family and friends.

This is actually having negative long term effects. In an article published looking at work life balance in Canada, they found that many younger workers were avoiding having children altogether to focus on their career.

To me that’s sad.

I’d recommend everyone reading this to take a look at a book called Work, Leisure and the Environment: The Vicious Circle of Overwork and over Consumption. We live in a society of over consumption, and it’s having huge effects on our lives.

Recently, South Korea decided to put much more emphasis on work life balance, when they saw fertility rates dropping drastically. We could definitely learn something from them, as they clearly understand the importance of work life balance and what it means for creating a strong family unit.

Some people argue for a work life blend, instead of work life balance, but I’m not sure if that’s the right answer. It’s important to let go, and separate work.

There’s no need to blend work into your life. It’s important to separate the two. It doesn’t mean that you have to hate your job to want to separate the two, but you need balance.

For example, I have a rule at my house where there are no cell phones/iPads allowed at the dinner table.

When we’re eating dinner as a family, we take time to connect, and take time to be with each other, away from work and other distractions.

In a Forbes article about work life blend, the author argues that one of the bonuses of blending work into your life is about feeling guilty for missing out on work. There’s no need to feel guilty about missing out on work during your down time.

This goes back to what I was saying at the beginning. It becomes a vicious cycle of work work work, and you end up getting more stressed, and losing more time with loved ones. It’s not healthy.

We all need to start prioritizing better, and understanding that most of our expectations about how much work we should be doing are too high.

In fact, in a study done by Accenture, they found that having a good work life balance is the key to a successful career.

There was a major Canadian study by Carleton University’s Linda Duxbury about work life balance, and what she found was:

  • Most Canadian employees still work a fixed 9-5 schedule.
  • 57% of those surveyed reported high levels of stress.
  • Employees in the survey were twice as likely to let work interfere with family as the reverse.

Employers Should Encourage Work Life Balance

It’s important that employers actively encourage a work life balance. It will have such a dramatic increase in productivity, and most of the things that you can do to fix this are free. Remember, time is the most precious gift you can give.

Here are 4 ideas for employers to implement:

  1. Offer Flexible Schedules – Give employees the freedom to fit personal things into their lives. Telecommuting should be an option, especially if the weather is bad. It saves so much stress and time travelling. An easy thing to implement is shifts, where you allow employees who might not like the idea of 9-5, to work from 10-6 or 11-7 instead.
  2. Offer Unlimited Vacations – This one is so much simpler for everyone to manage, because there’s no need to log anything, and it’s a clear sign that you respect your employees enough to make their own decisions.
  3. Be A Good Role Model – Remember that employees look up to their managers, and they especially look up to senior leadership. If they see their managers working non-stop, they won’t feel okay looking for work life balance. Keep that in mind, and make sure to be a good role model.
  4. Fun Tools For Your Office – It’s important to have a social atmosphere, to make work less stressful and more relaxing. An employee engagement platform that encourages communication between colleagues.

How Employees Can Find Work Life Balance

It’s important for employees to do everything they can to reclaim their personal life.

You need to understand the importance of having a good work life balance, and the negative effects of not having work life balance. The 3 biggest ones are:

  • Being Tired – When you’re tired, your work suffers, and that’s not good for anyone.
  • Missed Time With Family/Friends – There are too many important moments in your family and friends lives that it would be terrible if you missed. Whatever project you’re working on can wait.
  • Increased expectations – If you regularly work long hours, your boss will notice this and expect that this is the norm.

Some things that you can do to help correct this is:

  1. Plan For Downtime – You should actually build downtime into your schedule. Make fake meetings, and invite yourself so that you know certain times are blocked off.
  2. Prioritize – Only work on tasks that will actually yield the best results. For the other ones, just forget about them, no big deal.
  3. Optimize Your Schedule – Try to optimize your schedule for when you’re your most productive.

How Do You Achieve Work Life Balance?

It’s important for everyone to have a balanced life, because that’s what will allow you to be more productive at work. Any other tips to share? Let me know your thoughts on twitter @JacobShriar or @Officevibe.

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