It is no surprise that work/life balance has become such a popular topic, as staying at the office past five o'clock and logging in after the kids go to bed have become the norm for many professionals. We no longer live in a world where work and life are white and black, where one begins as the other ends. The boundary separating professional and personal has blurred and left us in a grey area in which we text family from our desk and email colleagues from our kitchen table. And while technology has enhanced our ability to communicate and exchange information, it would be hard not to argue that email, smartphones and personal devices have contributed to this grey area. So how can we rediscover the boundary between professional and personal?
First, hold yourself accountable for finding and maintaining the balance that you would like to see in your life. This applies not just to those whose employers respect and support their personal lives, but to anyone who wants to live a healthy and meaningful life. This accountability requires an understanding of what is most important and the discipline to prioritize and make time for that, whether it is exercising, cooking or spending time with family.
Second, understand and accept that your ideal balance today may be very different from your ideal balance in five or ten years. Marriage, children, aging parents or an unexpected illness can change life and priorities dramatically. This shift may best be seen in young parents who once worked long hours but now leave at 5 p.m. to spend time with their families. By accepting this shift, we are better able to embrace life's changes and to adapt work patterns accordingly.
Third, be realistic about what is required of your job and set expectations accordingly. There are some jobs that cannot be performed in 40 hours per week. Recognize your role for what it is and work with it. If you need to take your laptop home with you two evenings per week so that you can enjoy work-free weekends with your family, that may be your balance. If you need to arrive at work at 7 a.m. so that you can be home by 5 p.m., that may be your balance. By accepting and working with -- not against -- your job, you will find greater enjoyment in both your professional and personal life.
Fourth, when you are at work, be at work. When you are at home, be at home. Senior leaders at our company have shared this advice with their teams and colleagues. Avoid addressing personal matters at work, and similarly, don't bring your Blackberry to the dinner table. By being present at work and home, you will be a better employee and family member.
National Work & Family Month reminds us that we can celebrate work and family, both of which bring purpose, meaning and happiness to our lives. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, we have the ability to find our ideal balance by holding ourselves accountable, accepting and embracing change, setting expectations and being present.