A few years ago, I was driving home from work. I left about 20 minutes past the time I was originally scheduled to be off. I clearly remember driving home and feeling that I was “giving my life away” to that place. At the time I was also in a bitter season in my life. One where I had forfeited my personal dreams and aspirations. I had no hobbies outside of playing video games and having a drink or two in my off time. Needless to say, my life didn’t have much to look forward to. The easy out was to blame my retail job for robbing me of my time to do other things with my life.
And often, companies set themselves up for this by offering this term we all have heard on numerous occasions, “work/life balance.”
But the truth is, before and after this phrase became popular, the expectations between employee and employer were the same. It goes something like this, “I will pay you X amount of money for X amount/type of work, do you agree?” and we are all exactly where we are at because more than likely we replied with an emphatic “Yes.” We may have agreed to working Full Time (approximately 40 hours per week) or Part Time (anywhere between 16-30 hours per week, in which, most cases, the employee controls when they are available).
Now, if you are working an insane amount of hours, more than you ever agreed to or what was initially expected of you, then yes, it’s time to partner with your employer and work out a way to get some of your life back. But truly, for most companies today, overtime is not a free-for-all, it’s the exception and not the norm (Unless it’s your own company, and that ends up being an entirely different story all together).
As time goes on, excitement of a new job wears off and eventually its time for vacation. That’s about when we may begin to use the phrase, we “need a little more work/life balance.” Or perhaps we feel we are working too much. But in reality, we are working 8 hours a day…kind of (actual productive hours is questionable in most cases these days).
Let’s get back to that phrase from earlier. “I give my life to this place.”
Sure, I spend more time with my co-workers than my family…mathematically, thats how it tends to work out (between sleep, exercise and drive time).
So when we feel that “All I do is work.” and are where I was a few years ago (no hobbies, no creative outlets, no further aspirations), this statement is probably true.
The big part of the myth is that the employer is the one in control of whether you have work/life balance. But the reality is, if you have nothing going on outside of work, outside of the 8 hours of your 24 hour day that you knew was already committed to receiving payment for, than you are just working. There is no balance. You aren’t giving your actual LIFE part an opportunity.
If you are getting up, going to work, coming home, eating, watching tv and then going to sleep and repeating it all again the next day…then work is the only thing your life has to look forward to. If you do it long enough, it can become a bitter, dark place (I know. I’ve been there.).
Give your life something more to look forward to. Don’t blame your job. That’s too easy. And remember, you agreed to receiving the money for a certain type of work for a certain amount of time. You also have the choice to break the agreement and leave any time to pursue something else that suits your needs better. We all do.
First, however, I would encourage you to find something else to give your life towards, outside of your job. Something of purpose and deep meaning to you.
The benefit of somebody investing in themselves outside of work is extraordinary. If we are living out balanced and fulfilling lives, we are happier humans. Happy humans also happen to deliver great results. So not only will you be happier, so will your peers and your superiors. Because they will enjoy being around you and the great work that you do.
So let’s all do ourselves a favor and stop pushing all of the responsibility of “work/life balance” on the place of employment, it’s your choice to decide what to do with the other 16 hours of your day. Now go out and do it. Your life deserves it.
Have you ever fallen into the “work/life balance” trap? What did you do to get out of the funk? What did you discover that gave you more meaning and purpose outside of your job?