There’s an art to balancing work life with personal life, and it’s not easy for everyone. In fact, a recent study from Good Technology revealed that finding balance for workers has either become less of a priority or more of a struggle. The study found that an alarming 80% of people continue working after they leave the office each day. This includes half of respondents who check their email in bed, 78% who check it before 8 a.m., and half who believe they have no choice but to work after hours.
According to the study, the average amount of work occurring outside normal working hours is seven hours per week, almost a full day. This equates to nearly 30 hours a month or an additional 365 hours per year. At a salary of $10 an hour, that’s $3,650 in unpaid wages for hours worked.
By far, the biggest culprit for working outside of office hours is email. According to the survey, 57% of respondents checked email on family outings, 38% checked it at the dinner table, and 40% checked it after 10 p.m. Perhaps the most alarming figure, 69% reported that they can’t go to sleep without checking their email.
Women in the Workplace
According to Forbes, women are particularly prone to lacking work-life balance. Data from McKinsey research reveals that women hold 53% of corporate entry-level jobs, a number that drops to 37% for mid-management roles and 26% for vice presidents. Further, men are twice as likely as women to advance through career stages, which McKinsey Research suggests means men are more likely than women to be in positions that allow them less workplace burnout. In fact, men are 25% more likely to take breaks throughout the day for personal activities, 7% more likely to take a walk, 5% more likely to go out to lunch, and 35% more likely to take breaks in order to relax.
A Shift for the Future?
Brian & Company recently released a study that suggests the tides may be turning. According to their research, work-life balance is no longer just a women’s issue. When asked if they plan to prioritize non-work commitments over career progression, 50% of men and 51% of women currently in an MBA program said they do. Similarly, 42% of men and 40% of women reported the biggest obstacle to reaching their career goals is keeping some balance in their lives.
Since these MBA students report anxiety over derailing their careers for the sake of their families and personal lives, it may be time to rethink work culture. Julie Coffman, author of the report, points out that 80% of women and nearly 70% of men reported that they intend to have a joint parenting role in their family. “That starts to raise the question: Is it really feasible to parent and have a big job?” she said.
Time to Take Action
The struggle with work-life balance in the workplace can be remedied if all parties are willing to take action. Schools should offer more courses or programs that address the challenges of having a family and a powerful career, and companies should shift the way they reward employees. Harvard economist Claudia Goldin suggests that instead of rewarding those who work long hours outside of the office, employers should develop flexible career models that allow people to work their way to the top via different paths. Additionally, instead of rewarding tangible accomplishments, they should recognize those who work behind the scenes or go above and beyond to make the workplace enjoyable.
Employees can also do their part to make work-life balance less of a career stumbling block. The following steps may help those who experience workplace burnout:
- Prioritize. Decide what matters most to you and work with your manager to keep it a priority. Work hard and give your all in the workplace, but don’t let that affect the things that are important to you – like family dinners or your children’s extracurricular activities.
- Take care of yourself. Healthy habits improve how effective you are at work and help you combat the build-up of stress. Exercising regularly can help you blow off steam, and your lunch break may be the perfect time to do so.
- Set expectations. Know what is expected of you after hours and on the weekend so you are prepared when a project, phone call, or email sneaks up on you. If you set the expectation with your boss that he or she will only email you after hours if it’s extremely important, you’ll know that action needs to be taken if your receive an email on the weekend.
- Log off. Breaks are important, especially if you’re not on the clock. If you’re spending time with friends, are at a family event, or are enjoying a vacation, don’t check your emails or use your phone. Prep your team ahead of time so the expectations are set and a plan is in place for your work to be accomplished while you’re away.
How do you unplug from the office? Let us know in the comments section below!
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