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Finding work-life balance

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Glenford Smith, Career Writer. Email:glenfordsmith@yahoo.com

"It's really stressful," said Donald, "sometimes I have to double up at work to fill in for what someone else would have done. It leaves me with limited time for family."

Desrine, the other half of the couple, with whom I conversed during a recent encounter, added, "the problem is not just with the lack of time, but the emotional and physical toll the workday takes. By the time I reach home I am beat, and still have to take care of the children."

The story of this couple, who live in St Catherine and both pursue careers in Kingston-based companies, is representative of a prescient crisis looming on the corporate horizon - workers at every level who are at risk of burnout because of a lack of balance between work demands, duties, obligations and opportunities of family, recreational and spiritual life.

The 40,000-plus job losses in the private sector, between 2008 and 2009, are having a significant effect among those left to carry the workload.

These fortunate survivors are having more work to do in less time with fewer resources and support. Add to the mix gruelling study demands of tertiary education, to upgrade their qualifications and remain competitive in their field.

The result is an increasingly stressed workforce stretched to the extremes to retain their jobs. Consequently, they don't have enough time, nor physical and emotional energy to meet the needs of family, friends or even themselves.

Specifically, workers are not getting adequate sleep or exercise, nor spending enough quality time as families. Also, their diets and eating habits are increasingly unhealthy and they are gradually lacking a sense of control over their lives. One person described it this way: "My life seems not to belong to me anymore."

The job is getting workers' best, and there is hardly much of them left to go around to family, and other important areas of life like the spiritual, physical and social dimensions. If left unchecked, this lopsided lifestyle will result in the neglected areas eventually falling apart.

What all this calls for is for you to make work-life balance a priority and implement practicable strategies to create more balance.

Lifestyle planning

Decide with your family what are the priorities, what your most important values are. How important is money, relative to spending quality time together? Most people spend more time planning vacations than they do their lives, unfortunately. Be an exception.

Establish boundaries

Limit work to work time only and restrict your work times. Yes, someone may be needed to work another shift, or work on the weekend, but refuse to make this a habit. What will it profit you to be a martyr at work and lose your marriage, health, or the joys of contributing to your children's lives, in the process?

Schedule priority activities

Famous author and business expert Stephen R. Covey's book title says it best: Put First things First. Actually plan family activities, recreation, worship, exercise and quiet time on a monthly basis. Ensure these important things are done, even at the expense of some other urgent but relatively unimportant things. Manage television time to ensure adequate sleep.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and personal achievement strategist.

Spending time together as a family is just as important as time put into succeeding at one's career. - Contributed