Today I came back to the office and was greeted by a seemingly endless supply of stuffed animals. Yup…teddy bears, frogs, a tigger character, pound puppies, a hippo, a piglet, and a surprising collection of yellow ducks. I counted more than 50 animals in my office today. Immediately, my mind was put at ease and I couldn’t help but crack up at my coworkers and the great sense of humor they have.
You see, I had been gone on an extended vacation for about 2.5 weeks on a family trip to Japan. Basically, I’d been off the grid entirely and worried (throughout my vacation, on the drive to work, and before ever booting up my computer) about what I had missed while away. Did I leave all projects in a finished state? Was there anything I forgot to do before I left? What if someone needed a new training account created while I was away? How could Green River continue to operate while I was out of the office?
Okay, some of those concerns are slightly exaggerated, but most of them are based on reality. We live in a world in which we are constantly connected. We have seemingly unlimited access, especially if we enable our mobile devices, to all that happens in the office. Every year employees just like me (up to 40% according to a recent study) don’t use all of their vacation days. If work can be so stressful, and employees feel so much pressure, why is that that they/we don’t take much needed or deserved breaks?
I’d be the first to admit that it’s convenient to instantly verify my schedule for the following day (which helps me determine when to leave the house, what to prep for upon arrival, and even what to wear). I sometimes have to remind myself that I shouldn’t be scanning work email nights and weekends. It’s one thing to love what I do and be so actively engaged in my work that checking in seems like fun. It’s another thing entirely to feel the continuous pressure to perform before, during, and even after scheduled hours.
Personally, I’ve imposed a self-restriction to limit access to all things that feel like work and focus only on that which prepares me for the next day (such as my work calendar). I simply don’t check or log in to work email once I’ve left the office. I don’t respond to social media channels (those set up through the department) after hours. If I see an interesting article that directly relates to my job duties, I consider forwarding it my work email for future reading and annotation. This system seems to work well and provides flexibility, all the while allowing me to focus on what really matters outside of the office (my family). This approach, plus the fact that I’m been out of the office for just over 2.5 weeks, means that I’m now back with a new outlook on existing challenges and a refreshed view of the world as a whole.
Work-Life Balance Tips for Supervisors
- Focus on final output instead of individual process. This empowers employees to ensure work is accomplished, even if it means working a different schedule than others.
- Create realistic, time-based, achievable goals and hold employees accountable. This ensures employees are given freedom, but also perform.
- Encourage a work-life balance amongst the team (vacations, flexible schedules, children’s sports games, etc.). Added flexibility keeps employees around longer.