Today, technology is blurring the line between work and home life. Since email makes us easily accessible, professionals often feel pressured to be online at all times, even while on vacation or outside of traditional office hours. However, there are several steps that people at all experience levels can take to better maintain a work-life balance.
First, you must recognize that you have the ability to step away from your email from time to time. It may sound obvious, but you shouldn’t be afraid to set automatic out-of-office responses when you’re on vacation. Many people think that advertising their offline status or creating a professional boundary will damage their image as hard-working employees, but in reality, setting an out-of-office response is a highly effective way to protect your personal time and manage others’ expectations concerning when they will receive a response.
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Maybe you feel less stressed and more in control when you’re able to check email during the weekend or while on vacation. Putting aside a specific window of time—whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour—to check email each day is a useful tactic. This allows you to stay connected during your time away from the office while still preserving a majority of your personal time.
You should also consider avoiding taking your work home, especially on the weekends. If you need to review physical paperwork or require a work laptop to finish a project, leaving it at the office simply removes the option of working during non-office hours. To decrease the stress that this might initially cause, try this during a time where you know you have a lighter workload. People who attempt this strategy will likely find that they can take the weekend off to relax without their professional world coming to an end.
If you try a number of these approaches and still feel that your colleagues or clients are not respecting the boundaries you’re setting, don’t be afraid to discuss this issue with your manager. Ultimately, employers and employees are in the same boat with respect to the challenge of finding work-life balance, and the most reasonable managers don’t expect their employees to be working 24/7. Before arranging a meeting with a manager to discuss this, though, take a hard look at the amount of work you’ve been doing. Managers and colleagues will not be impressed if you’re only putting in a slightly above-average workday and then request to be available less of the time. But if you’ve been consistently working very long hours and weekends and think your workload has crossed a line, you should feel perfectly comfortable bringing this up with your manager.
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Finding the right strategies that allow you to step away from your professional life during your time off will ultimately reduce stress, prevent burnout, and make you a happier and more productive team member in the long run.