Alienated, unhappy and stressed, Susan Scott outlines the problems posed by striving for work-life balance in a digital age.
The majority of millennials define themselves by their career. And, yet, those in their late twenties and early thirties are more unhappy about their work-life balance than any other age group, according to a YouGov poll.
The report shows that one in five 25-34 year-olds are unhappy with their work-life balance. In contrast, just 14% of 35-44 year-olds and 17% of 45-54 year-olds said the same, with over-55s being the most content.
Responding to communications is one of the major pressures employees feel. More than four in 10 read or send work-related emails outside of office hours, while for some even holidays aren’t an escape – with approaching 38% either making or receiving work phones calls while on holiday.
This can have a negative impact on employees. They tend to be more disengaged with life in general than the average person, envying their friends’ lifestyles (34%) and feeling alienated by modern life (46%).
All work and no play
Work-life balance is changing. A term developed in the 1980s, this describes a balance between the time you devote to work and your leisure time. It was believed that a good balance makes you feel less stressed and more satisfied.
Some people feel strongly that you should be able to separate work and non-work time. Others actively blur the boundaries and blend the two with a mindset of ‘always on’. Others may even ping-pong between them, depending on the activities and challenges they are juggling.
Just like the dictionary definition of ‘career’, I believe the term ‘work-life balance’ is no longer relevant to today’s competitive, high achieving young professionals. In fact, feeling that you’re failing to get the balance between two entirely separate things just piles more anxiety onto an already challenged state.
Top Tips for work-life balance challenges
Take control of your life in a holistic way, rather than thinking of it in separate pieces.
Balance ‘doing’ with ‘recovery’. Take time to recharge your batteries. Energy is what fuels your life. So when you give out (by doing), you also need to recharge (recover).
Now, this is far easier to say than to do. I get that. Absolutely. And, actually, so much of our personal life involves technology anyway – we are constantly reading, viewing through our phones and communicating with our friends – so it’s no surprise that our work life intrudes into our personal life.
The hard fact, though, is that only you can make it different. Your employer (bluntly) doesn’t really care! And, while it would be great if they did, you probably shouldn’t expect them to.
What you can do is ensure you allocate time for the things that energise you e.g. socialising and taking on an activity that absorbs you, such as a sport, meditation, reading or gardening.
And, if you can do nothing else, manage the time spent using digital technology, particularly in the late evening, as this has a profound effect on the quality of your sleep.
About Susan Scott
Susan Scott is a business psychologist, nutritional therapist, trainer, consultant and coach, as well as a public speaker and an author.
Her book, How To Have An Outstanding Career, redefines what a career is for today’s Young Professionals and provides a unique new perspective to encourage the reader to consider their own career as a climbing frame rather than the traditional ladder.