Of late, a common topic discussed in workplaces is how to maintain work-life balance. To be honest, I have found it difficult to draw the line between work and life. In my view, all work is life and life is work. It is like a continuum.
I think the first question one should ask oneself is ” Are you enjoying your work ?” If the answer is no, then you need to deal with that first. I believe that everyone of us should try to do something, which we enjoy. It may not be easy to get a job or a vocation, which you enjoy doing. Sometimes, we are not sure what we enjoy too. It takes time to figure out what you want. Then, once you have a better idea of what you like, you may not get it that easily. So, the first step could be to find something which you enjoy so that you are happy doing it every day of your life.
The second part could be where does life end and work begin or the other way around. In my experience, it is not possible to demarcate work and life with a barrier in between. It is like we cannot demarcate where day ends and night begins. Daylight merges into dusk and then night emerges as the sun goes down the horizon. Further, the time for the day ending is different in different parts of the world. Similarly, work and life blend themselves in inseparable ways. We have to draw the line whenever we can by our conscious actions.
I would like to share two instances in my work life as my learning experiences. In the first instance way back in 1996, I was working hard in preparing for budgets at work. I used to be late every day and my spouse with two kids was balancing all work and life at home. I thought I was working very hard and hence was oblivious of what was happening at home to my spouse and kids. One day, when my wife broke down because of the overload at home, I realised that over working at office and ignoring my home responsibilities would not give me balance in life. I took leave for some time and after a break with my family, I realised there is always a need to strike a balance between work and your personal life. You have to know where to draw the line.
One good practice I have followed almost throughout my career is that I have tried my best not to carry work home. I would very rarely work at home and carry office work over the weekend. Recently another incident happened, which made me realise that I can have better control of my balance in life through my everyday actions. I was leaving office on a weekday and was carrying my laptop with me. A senior colleague asked me if I worked at home after office. When I said I don’t, he asked me as to why was I carrying the laptop everyday in the evening and brining it back the next day. Since that day, which happened in 2014, I have stopped carrying my laptop home every day. I carry it only during weekends and generally do not open at home unless there is an emergency.
One more learning is that as far as possible we should not carry office issues home and home problems to the workplace. If at all, we want to share, we could share the good news at both ends like rewards and recognition etc. This ensures that we do not add to existing challenges at work or home and make them more complicated. This may be easier said than done but worth a try.
Another important thing one could consider is to go on leave with family or friends at least once a year. If possible more often then once. You build a bond with your family or friends and get quality time with each other. You may never get to spend time with them if you keep postponing it on the pretext of work and more importantly you will not even get an opportunity to regret or compensate for the same in your life time.
If I may summarise my learnings, I would say that balancing work and life is in our hands. We should realise that none of us are indispensable at work and we have equal responsibilities at home. Where to draw the line and how to balance your life is in your hands. If we are willing to learn, we get enough indicators both at work and at home that we are crossing the line and we need to change ourselves.
So, let’s balance our life and work from today,
S Ramesh Shankar