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Is Work-Life Balance Achievable?

April 30, 2015 | Career Blog


It’s a topic that fuels HR magazines, blogs for women and water cooler chatter: is work-life balance real? Or is it just a buzzword phrase with no real answer or solution?

In particular this is a subject of debate for parents. They find themselves juggling a 40+ hour workweek plus the demands of homework, sports practice, music lessons, field trips, cooking, shopping and cleaning. It’s enough to make any working parent collapse in an exhausted heap.

At the core, work-life balance is about prioritizing and trying to strike some kind of middle ground that allows for sanity and success both at work and at home. It’s the idea that you’re not letting one area or the other dominate your life.

But in the world we live in, it’s more practical to realize that, yes, sometimes we’ll achieve a peaceful balance and, in many cases, the scales will be tipped. Achieving constant work-life balance is unrealistic. In essentially any job, there are busy seasons – projects with tight deadlines, prepping for a big new client presentation or traveling to handle client issues in person.

And then there are times when family comes first – your youngest has the flu, your aging parent needs you at a doctor’s appointment, your spouse is having surgery.

Workers set themselves up for disappoint when they think work should always be balanced equally to life. You’ll be much happier if you accept the fluctuations.

Then the trick becomes not letting the scales tip one way or the other for an extended period of time. If you find you’re constantly calling off work or leaving early to attend to family matters, you could put your job at risk.

At that point, you need to assess the family situation and determine if it needs your long-term attention. If your focus has to be family at this season, have a conversation with your employer about taking extended leave or cutting back on your hours. It’s best to be proactive and address these issues early rather than putting your job in jeopardy.

If work has crept beyond 40 hours into the 50- and 60-hour range for several weeks or months with no end in sight, it’s also a good time to have a heart-to-heart with your supervisor. If you’re constantly missing family time, working weekends and coming into the office exhausted, you aren’t doing your employer any favors.

Make balance your overall priority with the understanding that life – both personal and professional – has peaks and valleys. If they throw your balance off, it’s OK. Just work to slowly bring it back to a level position.