Balancing Work and Personal Life

Life Is Short

Balancing work and personal life is one of the biggest challenges most Americans face. We all know that Americans work too much. The old adage, “All work and no play make Jack a dull (and unhealthy) boy,” is correct! It hurts you physically and mentally. When you work excessive hours and rarely take time off, your productivity diminishes and your stress levels increase.

Stressed out man

Image by ra2studio

No Vacation Takes Its Toll

Companies do not make it easy, but workers also have to take some of the blame. The average worker-bee gets two-weeks paid vacation; but, many never (or rarely) use the vacation time. Rather than take a day off, they go to work even if they are sick because they believe they have too much to do and must get it done even if they are not feeling well. In many cases, that is exactly what the company expects.

In fact, in the company that I just left, we didn’t have sick days. When we were out for illness, we were dinged for being absent and if we wanted to get paid, we had to use our PTO (which should be saved for vacation).

Europeans Enjoy Annual Holiday

On the other hand, Europeans enjoy six weeks or more vacation annually – and they take it. It is called holiday. The majority take holiday in late July and August, which makes it the worst time to travel in Europe because most businesses are closed during this period.

If they can do it, why cant’ we?

Maybe because of American work patterns, American companies are more productive; but, there is no data to prove that – so maybe not. The one thing that is true, however, is that Europeans seem to have a better handle on work/life balance, which I envy.

Burn-out Is Real

Even if we do have an edge on productivity (and I’m not so sure that we do), there is the job burn-out factor that should be considered. How does that affect productivity?

If you work excessively long hours with no real breaks and your ability to concentrate and your effectiveness diminish, it seems logical to me that reducing the number of hours worked and taking a decent vacation every year may be in everyone’s best interest – the employees and the employers. But, alas, I am not the boss!

There are a few companies who make the effort to address the work/life balance, but most have a long way to go before it becomes a reality for most Americans. Corporations pride themselves on being a lean-mean machine – and they are exactly that. The operate with razor-thin staffs because of layoffs and cutbacks and the employees pay the price.

Even if a company boasts about policies on the books that give more time-off to employees, sadly, the employees find it almost impossible to take advantage of the policies because of the staff shortages.  The job must get done and the company expects the employees to do it, no matter what.

Find a Company that Cares

If you are working crazy, long hours, you may want to consider changing jobs and seeking an employer who is more employee friendly. Smart companies understand the need for reasonable working hours and implement and enforce policies that support that philosophy. They know that the right mix of home and work life will recharge employees to the point where they will be more productive.

If you cannot find a company that supports work/life balance, you may want to consider becoming your own boss. Use your unique talents and the skills you have developed over the years. As your own boss your biggest problem will be YOU – and your willingness and ability to manage your time wisely and create a healthy work/life balance.

No job and no amount of money is worth ruining your mental or physical health – or losing your family.

Take care of both! You must learn to relax and enjoy yourself. Life is too short to spend it doing nothing but work!


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