How many years have we been talking about work-life balance? Is there even such a thing? Five years ago I wrote about work-life balance versus work-life integration saying that maybe work-life integration is the future of how we live our lives and how companies will function. I think some companies have done a great job at incorporating a culture of work-life integration, but we have a long way to go. But the question still remains, how do we find balance in our life? And what does finding balance really mean?
I think the first thing we need to do is identify all the areas of life that need balance. I believe those areas are, work, diet, exercise, and lifestyle.
The word ‘work’ itself I feel goes against any sort of work-life balance or integration. Most people have to physically be in an office from morning to late afternoon, sometimes early evening, unless, of course, you have the privilege of working from home full time. However, I still don’t know how you find balance whether you work from home or not.
I know more companies are focusing on developing a culture where you can actually take time to get to know your colleagues and participate in activities that are outside of the office and have nothing to do with work. And we all know the Google’s of the world that have laundry, massage, yoga, etc. on site to help create work/life integration. Yet, I don’t know if that solves the ‘finding balance’ issue.
Also, many companies are starting to offer ‘flex-time’ options. So if you have a doctor’s appointment at 11am, you can work from home, go to your appointment, then go to the office. Or maybe you have to leave early to pick up your children from school at 3pm, then you continue your work from home. Some companies even offer a full ‘work at home’ day so you don’t have to be in the office Monday through Friday.
Truth be told, if your job has given you a laptop and with most applications having remote access or being cloud-based, you can work from anywhere. So it’s a matter of both you and your boss taking advantage of that and understanding the benefits to creating a healthier work life.
As for working from home, you certainly have more opportunities to create work-life balance. The difference from being in an office setting is you may not have a set schedule and maybe your day is longer. However, when you can go to a yoga class in the middle of the day, or have a leisurely lunch with a friend or even a client, you can’t beat that.
So whether you work in an office setting or work from home, it’s vital to determine what balance means to you and work on achieving it. We all have to work and make money to pay for our livelihood, but it should never be to the point of compromising your health and quality time with yourself, family and friends.
I think one of the biggest issues with diet is time. How can you create balance with your diet when you’re always on the go and have limited down time? When you’re done your day at work, as a working parent especially, you’re exhausted and the last thing you want to worry about is cooking. However, is compromising your diet by ordering in or grabbing food on the go helping to find balance? I don’t think so.
When you’re always on the go, whether or not you’re a parent, it’s can be very challenging to follow a healthy diet. But funny enough, I believe grabbing whatever food you can find goes against any sort of balance. Reason being, when you’re not feeding your body quality nutrients, your body will become out of balance and unhealthy. I think it’s pretty simple, because an unhealthy body is not balanced and then naturally you can’t function properly.
It’s important to take the extra time, whether it’s over the weekend or a couple of nights a week, to buy healthy, whole food and plan for the week. Cooking a large amount of brown rice, quinoa or one of my favorites, brown rice pasta, you’ll have it for two to three nights and it’s one less thing to prep. If it’s too much work to cut up vegetables, you can always buy them pre-cut and store it in the fridge. Same goes with meat, if that’s your thing. And as for fish, well, it takes no time to place a filet of salmon on a baking sheet with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon and bake it for twenty-five minutes.
Finding balance for your diet can be challenging, but the time you save when buying fast food or unhealthy on-the-go meals is only creating health issues, which will quite quickly throw your body off balance. It really does pay to make extra time to eat and quickly prepare meals that keep your health in check.
The issue with exercise is also time, but whereas diet is much more complicated and without a doubt time consuming, exercise doesn’t have to be. There are so many workout apps and programs online, so you don’t need to take time out of your day to drive all the way to a gym. If you can incorporate that time to get to a gym, great, if not, you’re covered!
Below are some links to sites I’ve used over the years to get a quick workout in. Twenty minutes is usually all you need and I don’t think there’s an excuse in the world why you can’t take two days a week to get your exercise in. And if you have children that are old enough, get them to work out with you.
Lifestyle means different things to different people. You might like to go to work, come home, relax and watch TV every night. Other people might workout every morning before work. Some people might start their weekend on Thursday, drink and go out to all hours of the night and rest Sunday afternoon.
Whatever your lifestyle is, it’s the difference between finding and creating balance or not. I believe more and more people understand the importance of incorporating activities that provide balance. Yoga, meditation, reading, hiking, walking, dinner or brunch with friends and family, all these things can provide balance and create a healthy lifestyle.
Whether or not you are working on work-life balance or integration, we are all seeking a healthy and happy life. When you’re younger, you really don’t pay any attention to finding balance, but you certainly start to think about it as you get older. And when I say older, it’s probably around the time you start college, but balance at that time is more about work hard, play hard, which is a type of balance, but not necessarily a healthy one.
I’ve always been conscious about balance, but it’s definitely evolved over the years. Even if I was working hard and playing hard, I was finding time to exercise, eat healthy, read, etc. I don’t think it necessarily made up for the ‘play hard’ times, because those moments were very unhealthy. Now I’ve become so obsessed with work-life balance, that I moved to a city that helps me achieve it.
Finding balance for your life is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. You can certainly push the limits when you’re younger, but as you get older I don’t think you can.
Think about those four areas of your life – work, diet, exercise and lifestyle – and ask yourself what parts need improvement. Life is too short and too precious not to work on finding, creating and embracing balance.