MONEY work life balance

Want a Four-Day Workweek? Here’s How to Make it Happen

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It's more attainable than you think

The summer is drawing to a close, and if you’ve enjoyed summer Fridays for the past several weeks, you’re probably thinking with some regret about returning to the same old grind.

But what if it didn’t have to be like that? What if you could have a permanent four-day workweek?

It’s not necessarily a pipe dream. More companies than ever are offering workers flexibility when it comes to their hours. A study published last year in the journal Community, Work & Family found that about 40% of 545 employers studied let workers choose alternative options for when or where they get their work done, making it the most common type of flexible work arrangement today.

Before you indulge in your Friday freedom fantasies, however, there are some steps you must take to prepare the ground and assure your boss and colleagues that you’re not taking three-day weekends at their expense.

Look for a flex-time mentor. “[Start] by looking around at your colleagues and seeing if anyone else in the company has a flexible or alternative schedule arrangement,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs and founder of Remote.co. If someone does, ask if you can join them on a coffee break (lattes on you, of course) and pick their brain about how they asked for the alternative arrangements and what they’ve done to make it work.

Assess your workflow. “A successful four-day workweek means getting all one’s job responsibilities completed in those four longer days,” says Dayna Fellows, president of WorkLife Performance Inc. Evaluate the type of projects you do to see if your responsibilities can be done in four long days instead of five typical ones. For instance, if you have tasks that have to be completed every single day, or work with a team that meets daily, your job might not be a great fit, Fellows says.

Strike while the iron is hot. “It’s best to go in when you’re on a high performance note rather than a low one, so identify a time that might be ideal,” Fell suggests. Do your due diligence so you’re ready to ask your boss for that meeting to discuss an alternative arrangement right after you’ve just had a stellar month or quarter.

Lay the groundwork by pointing out all the great things you’ve done recently, says Kelly Mattice, vice president at The Execu|Search Group. “You are much more likely to have your request approved if you have a proven track record of going above and beyond and… are responsible enough to manage your workload in four days,” she says.

Make it about them. “Your supervisor wants to hear how the new schedule will enhance your performance at the company and result in a positive outcome for the rest of the organization,” Mattice says. Come prepared with specific examples of ways that an alternative schedule will make you more focused and productive during the hours you are there. For instance, maybe taking one super-long day would be beneficial for working with colleagues or clients in a distant time zone.

Tackle this big objection. One oft-stated management concern is that “if they let one person have a four-day schedule, it opens the door for all employees wanting it, leaving the office empty one day,” Fell says. This is a legit concern, but your response should be to point out that your colleagues all have different personal lives and obligations, so the likelihood that everyone would want the same flex hours are slim. Since an alternative schedule is also a privilege, not a right, you could suggest to your boss that the perk be reserved for people who achieve a certain measurable level of performance. (Then make sure you hit those numbers.)

Be visible. One potential pitfall to a four-day workweek is that, if you’re not physically there, your co-workers might think you’re not pulling your weight. If you’re not in the office every day, Fellows says, it’s crucial to make sure you’re getting in your face time when you are there. “Participate well in meetings [and] take the lead on initiatives,” she says. Be highly available and responsive during the days and hours you are on duty.”

“For example, coming in early, staying late when you can, and taking smaller breaks for lunch and other personal tasks will help prove… your commitment,” Mattice says.

Read next: 3 Strategies for Managing Your Team Remotely

TIME Careers & Workplace

13 Tips for Keeping Personal and Professional Life Separate

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Start and stop on time

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Question: What is one tip you have for keeping your personal and professional life separate?

Don’t Use Your Facebook Profile for Work

“Use a Facebook page to promote your business, and keep your Facebook profile for actual friends and family only. Many people make the mistake of blurring the line and they’re left with the worst of both worlds: They can’t promote on Facebook because they’ll annoy their friends, and they can’t be too personal for fear of coming across as unprofessional with prospects. Separate the two.” — Laura Roeder, MeetEdgar.com

Schedule Your Life, Too

“Reserve personal time in your schedule for activities that allow you to recharge and that add value, such as daily exercise, a weekly date or social night, family activities and vacation. You will not only have something to look forward to, but by reserving personal time you will have extra motivation to manage your time well so you do not have to cancel on others — or yourself!” — Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

Start and Stop on Time

“I used to let my business drive all over my personal life because I didn’t have any set boundaries. Plans with my girlfriend, family and friends would often get delayed or cancelled because I was busy at the office. After a while, I noticed that it took a significant toll on my most important relationships, and I made the decision to always start and end things on time. It’s helped tremendously.” — Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

Pursue Multiple Passions

“Have friends and activities outside of work that you are equally as passionate about as your company. Expect business matters to interrupt you and call you away, but cherish the time with your outside activities. This task is purely a mental process.” — Jon Cline, Rokit SEO

Maintain a Very High Sense of Professionalism

“In most ways, I prefer to integrate my personal and professional life 100 percent of the time. I love really caring for the people I work with and working with the people that I care about. That being said, I do think there is a certain responsibility that comes with leadership. I always highly recommend to people that they maintain a very high sense of professionalism in their working relationships.” — Dan Price, Gravity Payments

Choose Wisely

“I work with my husband, sister and one of my best friends at my marketing firm. I have to say that it’s working out really well. For about a year and a half we have worked out a system of communication and established boundaries that allow us to leave work at work, and leave our personal issues out of the office. Not everyone can handle it. You have to communicate expectations and limits.” — Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

Separate Your Email Accounts

“Having a custom personalized domain is an effective way of separating your personal and professional email correspondence. Your own domain and brand can stay with you from company to company. Your company email account can then be used only to communicate with those required by your profession, and your personal email account is for those you’d communicate with outside of work.” — Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com

Meditate

“Meditation has allowed me to mentally disconnect from work when I get home at night. There is a great app, Headspace, that is a perfect ‘starter course’ for first-time users. The app eases you in by making you clear your mind for 10 minutes a day, for 10 days. Having the ability to disconnect when getting home has allowed me to be more creative and frees my mind for new ideas. ” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

Remember That at Work, You Are a Boss First

“As an entrepreneur, you spend a lot of time with your team. They become your morning, noon and night people. It’s OK to be both personal and professional friends, but you need to remember that you are their boss first. Make sure you are responsible, that they respect you, and that you are a good role model for work ethic.” — Amanda L. Barbara, Pubslush

Leave the Office

“I used to get stuck at the office until all hours of the night. That’s not good for your personal life and loved ones who are waiting at home for you. So I made one simple change. I booked a family function to attend every night of the week. It could be as simple as dinner or a family walk at a local park. Just thinking about standing your family up forces you to be there with them.” — Logan Lenz, Endagon

Disconnect From Technology

“I truly believe that this separation no longer exists. The better question is how to disconnect. For me, turning my phone off and going for a hike, a bike ride or another activity in nature is immensely relaxing.” — Matthew Moisan, Moisan Legal, P.C.

Turn Off Push Notifications

“Everyone carries a mobile smartphone these days. It’s almost impossible to keep things separate. However, you should disconnect from your email after a certain time during the day. If you’re on the golf course or out to dinner with family, turn off push email notifications. You can always get up early the next day to respond.” — Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

Be Both Professional and Personable

“My rule of thumb is to make sure that anything that goes online that is tied to me personally (or the company) reflects us in a very positive light. If you’re putting something online you should be OK with the entire world seeing it. When I have personal time, I try to use airplane mode on my phone to keep from constantly being distracted when winding down.” — Jeff McGregor, Dash

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

This article originally appeared on BusnessCollective

TIME Culture

How To Fix Work-Life Balance for Constantly Connected Millennials

Agree on goals and core values, and then trust employees to complete their work in whatever ways suit them

There’s a paradox sitting at the heart of the issue of work/life balance at the moment.

Research shows that people are increasingly seeking 24-7 digital connection while driving; in the bedroom; and in social and family lives.

More and more people sleep next to their phones, take devices on dates and digitally connect at meal times. Many people want to be “always on.” But when you’re open and available, it’s hard to choose to ignore it when the emails happen to be from the office or the tweets are coming from the boss.

Old rules

The concept of work/life balance largely precedes the advent of digital technology. The term was first coined in the 1970s, but 100 years ago, employees were taking papers home their work finished up.

Round-the-clock digital response and connection is much more pervasive. Research suggests that many millennials want their home life to be just that, in fact, 100% that. One global study of full-time workers in eight countries conducted by Ernst & Young finds that millennials — and particularly millennial parents — are so serious about finding work/life balance, they’re willing to relocate if it means they can move into a job that offers it.

This is only one snapshot, but there’s a lot of research around at the moment about work/life balance. Employees want to bring their own devices to work, and enjoy social media connection in whatever way suits them. But they want to close the door on work when they get home and not be pestered by work at home. And they are serious about it. The Ernst & Young study found:

Millennials in the survey are also more willing than other generations to pass up a promotion, change jobs, take a pay cut, or even change careers in order to achieve more flexibility.

So, here’s the paradox: People are encouraged to bring their own devices to work and yet many of those people who want to check personal updates at work don’t want it to work in the other direction. But it is hard to resist: the technology is an enabler of a poor work/life balance, and precedents are quickly established.

Digital natives

The digitally native generation are more than able and used to taking devices home with them. A survey by Workfront found that 22% of baby boomers in the 55-64 age bracket thought it was OK to answer a work email during dinner. Ask 18-34-year-old millenials though, and that shoots up to 52%. More than half of adults questioned in a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair survey, meanwhile, said monitoring emails outside office hours was routine.

And so it seems that millennials who have become used to this constant digital connection are increasingly pushing back, even to the point of stepping away from the organisations who force it upon them. Evidence for dissatisfaction is growing.

Almost two-thirds of fathers who have youngsters under school age do not have a work pattern that suits them, according to a Guardian survey). Half the respondents were worried that requests for flexible or home working would be seen as a “lack of commitment”.

Left to their own devices

This offers a challenge to employers, particularly as it makes offering staff a work/life balance – in an age when it has never been harder – a key weapon in staff retention and attraction, at least, according to the Randstad Award employer branding research study. Finding and retaining the best millennial talent requires a genuine adaptability and sensitivity to the issue, and an ability to navigate a way past the “always-on” ubiquity of technology.

So, how are leaders and business owners attempting to resolve this paradox? My own research suggests that an increasing number of businesses are no longer managing staff by clocking their working hours but instead by co-ordinating by what organisational Canadian writer Henry Mintzberg calls “standardised outputs and values.” We agree goals and core values with employees from the outset and then leave it to them to complete their work in whatever ways suit them.

This is a very “millennial” way of working. It isn’t that millennials don’t want to take work home. It is more that they want to decide their own work/life balance. They don’t want taking work home to be the default position. According to a new survey of nearly 10,000 workers in eight countries by Ernst & Young’s Global Generations Research: “Younger workers see that technology frees them to work productively from anywhere.”

Maybe it is the attempt to incorporate this modern approach into traditional working patterns that causes the problems? It might just be a case of all or nothing to make it work.

Boundary review

We can address the paradox by putting the control of working flexibly into the hands of workers after agreeing the underlying values and goals. Work/life balance then becomes about freely working in different physical places, whilst mobile, on different devices and via flexible platforms. Just because we can bring our own devices to work, doesn’t mean we have to bring our work home.

In practice that means higher degrees of trust. It isn’t about micro-managing staff time and physical place, but current research suggests that is still largely going on. To succeed here, and for companies to get the right levels of performance out of their staff, it becomes about plug and play work processes, about porting content across platforms and devices, about respecting the boundaries between home and work and designing business processes that embed that respect. It means going the whole hog. Total flexibility to get the best out of agile technologies and trust to empower your flexible workers.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

MONEY productivity

6 Tricks to Keep From Vegging in Front of the TV After Work

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We’re too pooped to do anything but work and watch TV

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual survey of how America uses its time last week. Compared to 2003 when the survey started, we spend more time working and watching TV. We are sleeping a bit more these days, but that extra shut-eye and screen time comes at a price. We spend less time socializing, eating, and engaging in religious or volunteer activities.

“I think that people are working a lot harder and there’s just a lot more that they’re expected to do,” says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. “I think it may just be overload. It’s easy just to veg out and watch TV when you feel like everything at work is just in overdrive. There’s a tendency to not want to be exposed to it when you get home,” he says.

Cohen and other experts say there are some things you can do, though, to resist the siren song of the recliner at the end of the day. Follow these and you might find that you have to start DVRing those nighttime shows.

Plan ahead before you leave the office. “Take time toward the end of each day to plan ahead for the next day,” says James Craft, professor of business administration at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. Doing this before you leave work will keep you from starting the day stressed out, or getting absorbed in reality TV to escape the stress the night before. Craft suggests identifying a few specific goals or tasks that must be done that day, then gathering the contact info, files, documents, or other material you’ll need to jump right in.

The same pre-planning trick also works for after-work activities. “Schedule activities in advance so you have a plan of commitment,” Cohen says.

Cut the caffeine. “Reduce coffee and sodas to keep you going at work,” advises career coach Todd Dewett. You don’t have to give it up entirely, but cutting back — especially in the afternoon — will help you avoid crashing right when you get home. “Instead, for one third of your caffeine consumption substitute a short walk,” Dewett suggests. “This is a great way to cognitively rejuvenate without caffeine.” Earlier research has found that taking walks during the workday boosts well-being and motivation, so it has a double benefit. Even five minutes can do the trick.

Give yourself something to look forward to. “A person needs to have something to do that they enjoy, is different, and that they can anticipate,” Craft points out. “That way, they’re not just going home with nothing to do but flop down and watch TV.” Put something you like to do on your schedule like any other appointment and that Law & Order marathon suddenly looks less appealing. For example…

Make plans with other people. Most of us are less likely to bail on a planned activity when other people are participating, too. “Include friends and family in physical activities,” says Chris Boyce, CEO of corporate wellness company Virgin Pulse. “Suggest that everyone goes for a walk after dinner instead of zoning out in front of the TV,” he says. Even if it’s not strenuous, the activity is good for you, and spending time socializing instead of sitting in front of a screen will recharge your mental batteries, he says.

Kick the habit. “People get used to telling themselves that they’re exhausted and just don’t have the energy for anything else except television,” says Joseph G. Gerard, assistant professor of management at Western New England University. Sure, TV engages without demanding anything from you, but spending your evenings in front of a screen can become a habit before you even realize it. “It’s easy… to get caught up in a favorite show or two,” Gerard says. “A lot of people don’t realize when they fall into bad habits.” Experts say it takes several weeks to break a habit, so plan for a couple of months of TV alternatives, he advises. If you stick with it, you’ll probably find that vegging out has lost its appeal.

Put down the phone. A lot of the expert advice to find another engaging activity is a moot point if you’re going to be bent over, tapping on a screen. It’s not necessary to go into full-on detox mode; just put the devices down somewhere for two or three hours in the evening so you can do other things without interruption. “When you’re always attached to your phone, you’re going to sit on the couch. You’re going to be less active,” Cohen says.

 

MONEY

How to Unplug From Work

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Reclaim your nights, weekends, and vacations.

Bet you can’t remember the last time you worked a 35-hour week. Thanks to technology, “employees feel the need to do more, work harder, and put in longer hours to stay competitive,” says Texas A&M management professor Wendy Boswell, who studies work/life balance. Smartphone users spend five hours on work email each weekend, reports the Center for Creative Leadership. A poll by the employment website Glassdoor found that 61% of people have worked during a vacation.

Productivity falls sharply after a 50-hour workweek, found Stanford economics professor John Pencavel. So connecting less is good for you and your company—though your boss may need convincing. To unplug without zapping your career, try this two-pronged plan:

Reduce Your Regular Hours

• See where you stand. Is work taking over nights and weekends? Before you speak up, figure out whether you have cause to complain. Putting in extra hours might be a must for your field, level of seniority, or company culture. If not, it’s okay to try to shift your manager’s expectations.

• Share your schedule. Explain your obligations outside of work—you have to pick up kids from school, say, or you take a night class that keeps you off email. Knowing that, your boss will be more inclined to respect your personal time, says San Antonio productivity consultant Helene Segura.

• Speak up. If your boss keeps breaking the boundaries, address the issue head-on. But focus on her needs, not yours, says Segura. For instance, “I’ll do whatever it takes to reach our sales goals, but I’d like to talk about the amount of work coming in after hours.”

Make it clear that you’ll be available in a crisis. But agree on what constitutes an emergency and how you can be reached. Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out, advises having your boss call instead of email so that you’re not at the mercy of your in-box.

Give Yourself a Real Break

• Put everyone on guard. Time away from the office can help you recharge—so long as you plan in advance. That means reviewing what needs to be done before you go, making sure that happens, and reminding your boss and co-workers of your schedule.

• Name your own sub. Having a person cover for you will vastly reduce the number of emails you receive. Get that person onboard by promising to do the same.

• Send the right message. On your email auto-reply, state when you’ll be back and whom to contact until then. Don’t say you’ll “check email periodically,” says executive coach Libby Gill, or people might count on you to respond. Then put down the phone, pick up a piña colada, and toast your freedom.

MONEY Workplace

Goldman Sachs Bans Interns from Pulling All-Nighters at the Office

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The investment bank is putting an end to overnight work in an effort to improve interns' well-being.

Goldman Sachs has a message for its most junior employees: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here all night.

The investment bank is demanding its new summer interns be out of the office between midnight and 7am, Reuters reports. The new policy comes as financial industry, notorious for its grueling hours, tries to make banking a less stressful endeavor.

The 2013 death of a Bank of America intern in London, which may have been partially induced by fatigue, raised awareness of the finance world’s difficult working conditions and sparked reform efforts. Following the incident, Bank of America modified its policies to be more work-life friendly, and recommended analysts and associates “take a minimum of four weekend days off per month.”

Goldman, Credit Suisse, Citi Group, and other banks have made similar reforms, telling its junior bankers to take off Saturdays or weekends, and in Goldman’s case, forming a task force for quality of life issues.

Part of this reduction in hours is due to health concerns, but as the New York Times noted last year, it’s also driven by new competition from other industries, particularly technology firms, that offer the chance of riches and a personal life. This has lead more potential bankers to demand a (slightly) more livable schedule.

“My students, men and women, talk much more openly about an expectation of work-life balance,” Sonia Marciano, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, told the Times. “It’s a shift that seems pretty real and substantial.”

MONEY Workplace

9 Things No One Tells You About Work-Life Balance

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You don’t need kids to struggle with balance.

We’ve all heard the phrases “work-life balance” and “having it all” ad nauseam, but what we don’t hear are the unfiltered, unpretty truth from those in the trenches — what trying to create a balanced life actually looks and feels like.

So we asked professional women — CEOs, lawyers, divorced women, single moms, those who are childfree by choice — to share what they were surprised to learn about the notorious pursuit of “having it all.” Here’s what they said.

The Definition of “Balance” Changes

Work-life balance is not a static state that, once achieved, means you can maintain constant equilibrium. It’s always shifting. “What was ‘in balance’ for me 11 years ago before [my daughter’s] birth would throw me out of balance in today’s life,” says Aleasa M. Word, 45, a single mom of two (one of whom has special health needs), corporate employee, and part-time emotional intelligence coach.

“A decade ago, having to juggle two kids only two years apart alone with varying schedules and personal needs would have sent me into stress overload because I lacked the emotional flexibility that often comes with age and life experience,” Word says. “I learned balance is not making all things equal, but instead making them fit into your space in a way where you accept the shifts differently and learn to shift with them.”

Quiana Murray, a business consultant at OhSoBold.com with extensive experience in helping female entrepreneurs, echoes Word’s sentiment. “Everything does not have the same level of importance every day,” she explains. “Maybe today you need to put more time into your career so that tomorrow you can have the resources your family needs to have a better life.” The real key to balance, she says, is trying to determine what (or who) needs to be at the top of your list right now, today, and letting go of any judgment around that.

Work Can Be a “Break” — and Keep You Sane

For many working moms, work isn’t something they have to do, it’s an escape. Alison Podworski, 38, CEO of Alison May Public Relations and mom of three young girls, says that while her job is flexible, working in PR means working weeknights, weekends, and early mornings — but she loves it.

“Sometimes I would rather be at a press conference or in the office than with my kids,” she says. “I am sure some moms would hate me [for saying that] and tell me that I am not a good mother. But I’m putting it out there. It’s not that I don’t love them. I love my children more than anything in this world. But, for me, working is a break. There is no whining, crying, fighting, or drama. If any mother is going to say motherhood is blissful and wonderful all the time, I would like some of your happy pills.”

Empowerment mentor and author Jean Walker, 37, agrees. After her youngest daughter was born in 2005 — she and her husband have six children between them — she realized that she needed to go back to work in order to survive. “If I was home all the time, taking care of the kids, waiting on my husband to get home, I might seriously lose it,” she says. “I like being more than a wife and mother. I like having an ‘undercover superhero’ side to my life. Work allowed me just enough time to be gone, to miss my kids, and then pick up with all the family things in the evening.”

Put Yourself First

The idea of putting on your own oxygen mask first very much applies to finding balance, says Vicki Salemi, careers expert for Monster.com and one of the top career bloggers in the country, according to BlogHer.

“Women who seemed to achieve that golden work-life balance — or at least the vision of it — seemed to be ones who were less harried and had more of a sense of calmness because they focused on the foundation: themselves,” she explains. “They implemented self-care rituals like morning yoga classes. They were women on a mission, women with a plan, and that plan involved cutting themselves slack. This inner sense of peace and focus was able to carry through.”

Rebecca Rachmany, 47, is one of those women. As the CEO of girls’ entertainment startup Gangly Sister, an active mentor, and the mother of two teens, she’s constantly on the go — but that doesn’t stop her from exercising and devoting time to spirituality. “Sometimes women will ask me how I find time for meditation or the gym, and the answer is I don’t,” she says. “I am committed to my health first. I ‘find time’ for everything else. When I first had a baby, I put my emotional and physical needs to the side and I was miserable. As I got back to taking care of myself, my satisfaction increased.”

But You’re Always Aware of What You’re Not Doing

It’s no secret that there often is an undercurrent of guilt for women who have children and careers. Emma Davidson, 32, founder of Gecko Clothing and mother of three, says that while she thrives on the busy nature of her life, she’s always aware of what she’s missing out on. “Even when you are spending quality time with your children you are always conscious of the things you are not doing,” she explains. “When you are playing with the kids, you are not just ‘not’ working — you are not exercising, not doing the food shopping, you are not answering to problems [that] friends or family are having, not organizing some me time, not cleaning or cooking.”

Professional development coach Dr. Lesly Devereaux, 56, author of Breaking Codependency, taught her sons how to cook starting at age 10 because she realized there were days when she might not make it home in time to prepare dinner. The upside? “As the older boys matured and left home, they were self-sufficient,” she says.

Not being able to do it all can also be ego deflating, says Karen Satchell, 35, an officer at online payroll and HR services company Payce, Inc. and mother of a one-year-old. “Balance means fighting the shame and hiring a cleaning service once in a while because I don’t have the time or energy to clean my own house,” she says.

There’s Always a Cost

Yes, it takes a village to “have it all,” and the effect it has on those around you can’t be underestimated or underappreciated.

“Work-life balance requires a team of support at home and at work, but I think we have to be real about the fact that there is a price — and those who help out at home get very little of the same credit or respect that I got during my career,” says Lisa Stansbury, 57, who recently decided to work from home after 20 years of working in corporate health care administration, media, and marketing.

“My husband worked from home while my daughter was small and put his career on the back burner. After he passed away, when my daughter was 11, she paid the price by going home from school every day to an empty house until I got a nanny from the local university,” Stansbury says. “I’m more grateful now for the people in my life who allowed me to continue to work, and more aware of what it cost those around me.”

You Don’t Need Kids to Struggle With Balance

Working moms are usually the focus when we talk about work-life balance, but not surprisingly, single women and those without children also struggle to find balance. Sociologist Amy Blackstone, Ph.D., says that, as a childfree person, one thing she never realized is that most people assume that the “life” part of work-life balance means “children.”

“The idea that the childfree deserve balance just as much as their parent counterparts is overlooked by workplaces, policy makers, and, more generally, by most segments of our society,” she says. “One strategy I’ve used in my own life to combat this challenge is to be very deliberate about referring to my chosen home conglomeration as my family. For me, family consists of myself and my husband. Our need for time together and to nurture our relationship is just as important as the needs of parents to nurture their relationships with their own spouses and children.”

Those without children may also have additional “life” circumstances needing their attention. “I always thought because I did not have kids I would never have to deal with work-life balance at all,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn, 49, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls. “But the truth is, you still have the aging parents issue and chances are, like for my husband and me, you’ll take on the majority of that if your siblings did have kids. Also, in my case at least, I took on more responsibility at work and in the community, which leaves me less free time.”

There’s Still a Nagging Desire for Perfection

“I secretly wish that I will be the one mom who can effortlessly balance it all even though I know [that] doesn’t exist,” says Amy Shah, MD, 37, who runs her own practice, has two kids, and operates a wellness business on the side. “We have pressure on us to do it all, and do it well,and look good while you do it. We may reject that publicly but we still operate under that framework,” she says.

Trying to shed these expectations is something Natasha Coleman, 36, full-time working mother of three kids (an 18-year-old son with autism and 11-year-old twins) and caretaker for her mother-in-law, believes is critical to overall well-being. “My biggest lesson learned is releasing yourself from wanting to be perfect,” she says. “In juggling all my roles I have learned that every day you have to fail somewhere. Just try not to make it the same place every time.”

It’s crucial to understand your own goals and resist playing the comparison game. “It’s critical to define success and balance for yourself,” says Sally Anne Giedrys of Whole Life Strategies Coaching. “The answers are different for each of us, in each season of life. We feel balanced when we know what we truly want in our lives, our days, our work, and choose to commit to those things.”

The Importance of Setting Boundaries

Divorce lawyer Regina A. DeMeo, 42, has juggled being a single mom to her son while running her own law firm for the last 10 years by learning to embrace the power of the word “no.” “No, I cannot stay late for a client. No, I cannot go to every school function. No, I cannot take on another volunteer position. I had to stop being a people pleaser — it was the only way to survive,” she says.

As Vannessa Wade, 34, president of Connect the Dots PR and caretaker to her nieces and nephews, explains, “I bought into the myth that as a business owner I have to be on-call 24/7, when in reality I can set the standard on what works best for me and my situation.”

For her, boundaries include having cutoff times for when clients can contact her, plus time dedicated to exercise, friends, mentees, and family, and being selective about which events she attends. “I know I can’t do it all, but I can do what I can do and do it well without guilt and unnecessary stress,” she says. “I’ve become more vocal about what works for me rather than always appeasing the masses, and you know what? It works.”

Read next: Millennials Want Work-Life Balance Too. Here’s How They Can Get It

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TIME Culture

The Art and Science of Doing Nothing

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Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Also known as 'leisure'

Leisure or as some call it, the art and science of doing nothing. It’s something we all want yet rarely have.

Our modern workplace culture prides itself on filling every one of our minutes, even if it’s all for show. Yet leisure is necessary for insight, which is a key component in today’s knowledge economy.

Far from being the result of productive labour, for the knowledge worker, leisure is a necessary part of the labour. While it may seem non-productive, that is only looking at it from one angle.

In this excerpt, from The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen defines leisure as the “nonproductive consumption of time.”

The term leisure, as I use it, does not connote indolence or quiescence. What it connotes is nonproductive consumption of time. Time is consumed nonproductively (1) from a sense of the unworthiness of productive work, and (2) as an evidence of pecuniary ability to afford a life of idleness. But the whole of the life of the gentleman of leisure is not spent before the eyes of the spectators who are to be impressed with that spectacle of honorific leisure which in the ideal scheme makes up his life. For some part of the time his life is perforce withdrawn from the public eye, and of this portion which is spent in private the gentleman of leisure should, for the sake of his good name, be able to give a convincing account. He should find some means of putting in evidence the leisure that is not spent in the sight of the spectators. This can be done only indirectly, through the exhibition of some tangible, lasting results of the leisure so spent—in a manner analogous to the familiar exhibition of tangible, lasting products of the labor performed for the gentleman of leisure by handicraftsmen and servants in his employ.

The lasting evidence of productive labor is its material product—commonly some article of consumption. In the case of exploit it is similarly possible and usual to procure some tangible result that may serve for exhibition in the way of trophy or booty. At a later phase of the development it is customary to assume some badge or insignia of honor that will serve as a conventionally accepted mark of exploit, and which at the same time indicates the quantity or degree of exploit of which it is the symbol. As the population increases in density and as human relations grow more complex and numerous, all the details of life undergo a process of elaboration and selection; and in this process of elaboration the use of trophies develops into a system of rank, titles, degrees, and insignia, typical examples of which are heraldic devices, medals, and honorary decorations.

As seen from the economic point of view, leisure, considered as an employment, is closely allied in kind with the life of exploit, and the achievements which characterize a life of leisure, and which remain as its decorous criteria, have much in common with the trophies of exploit. But leisure in the narrower sense, as distinct from exploit and from any ostensibly productive employment of effort on objects which are of no intrinsic use, does not commonly leave a material product. The criteria of a past performance of leisure therefore commonly take the form of “immaterial” goods. Such immaterial evidences of past leisure are quasi-scholarly or quasi-artistic accomplishments and a knowledge of processes and incidents which do not conduce directly to the furtherance of human life. So, for instance, in our time there is the knowledge of the dead languages and the occult sciences, of correct spelling, of syntax and prosody, of the various forms of domestic music and other household arts, of the latest proprieties of dress, furniture, and equipage, of games, sports, and fancy bred animals such as dogs and racehorses. In all these branches of knowledge the initial motive from which their acquisition proceeded at the outset, and through which they first came into vogue, may have been something quite different from the wish to show that one’s time had not been spent in industrial employment, but unless these accomplishments had approved themselves as serviceable evidence of an un productive expenditure of time, they would not have survived and held their place as conventional accomplishments of the leisure class.

(h/t Lampham’s Quarterly)

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Careers

Is Work-Life Balance Even Possible?

We asked people on the streets of New York City how they manage to keep their home lives and work lives separate, if at all.

Balancing your time and energy between work and home is difficult; you’ve got that report due on Wednesday and your kids need help with their homework. We went to Times Square to ask people how they prioritize between their careers and their family. Some people said they clock out right at 5p.m. every day while some said they take work home with them every night. How do you manage your work-life balance?

TIME Careers & Workplace

These Are the Best Jobs You Can Do In Your Pajamas

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Here's what kinds of jobs offer this perk

Whenever the topic of flexible work arrangements or work-life balance comes up, telecommuting is one of the first ideas that comes up. Fortunately for dedicated employees who just want a job where the commute doesn’t drive them to distraction, more companies today are coming around to the idea that telecommuting is a good option to offer, according to FlexJobs.com, a job search site that focuses on flexible positions, including ones that permit telecommuting.

And it’s not just worker bees who can reap the benefits. FlexJobs found that there are executive-level options for department heads, vice presidents and even C-level bosses who are sick of battling rush-hour traffic and compiled a list of 15 of the best. Not surprisingly, jobs in consulting and technology — where much of the work is conducted remotely anyway — turn up, but there are also jobs in healthcare, education and even the nonprofit sector that extend telecommuting benefits. Positions in sales, finance or HR also can provide opportunity for telecommuting.

“I think something that will surprise job candidates looking for executive-level telecommuting jobs is the number of large and well-known employers offering them,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs. “Companies of all sizes hire for telecommuting jobs even at the highest levels of leadership,” she says.

For instance, there’s an academic employer looking for a director of research is happy to have a full-time telecommuter step into the role, and a big national firm is looking to fill a senior vice president of managed travel position that will require logging plenty of frequent-flier miles but can otherwise be performed from home.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that only low-level positions are eligible for telecommuting. “A typical telecommuter is 49 years old, college educated, and in a management or professional role,” FlexJobs says. One vice president of consulting gig wants candidates with 15 years experience — at minimum. A VP-level sales job requires 10 years of management experience, plus another decade focusing specifically on project management. And even though working from home means saving on gas, parking and/or public transportation tickets, these jobs don’t pay peanuts. FlexJobs says three-quarters of people who work from home pull down $65,000 a year or more.

Not only does letting people work from home let companies extend their talent search beyond driving distance of the office, but there’s a growing pile of research that suggests people are both happier and more productive when they have the option to lead conference calls in a bathrobe at least part of the time.

But if you think there might be perks to working in your PJs, you might need to make your case during an interview, Fell says. If a job ad says telecommuting is limited or available on a case-by-case basis, “The job candidate should prepare him or herself to make a case as to why they’re both an excellent fit for the job, and an excellent fit for telecommuting as well,” Fell says. And if you score a job where you’re trading in your briefcase for bunny slippers, the lack of face-to-face interaction also puts the onus on you to be proactive and straightforward in their communication style, she adds. “Job candidates who are interested in working remotely need to hone their communication skills [and] their ability to set goals for themselves and their teams.”

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