There’s one way to keep your work-life balance in check that surpasses all others in simplicity. This technique is a series of words, but it has profound implications.
Usually, the only connection between work and our individual well being is stated in legalese. Employers may provide health insurance, short term disability, contribute to workers compensation, or help us save for retirement. There’s something else that can help us to stay healthy while continuing to advance our career, but it’s not a complicated financial instrument or a miracle drug. Instead, it’s just a simple phrase: “Every job is a part-time job.”
That mantra serves many functions. First, it should remind us that we cannot and should not live all of lives at work. The body needs sleep to recharge and the mind needs rest to focus. Our emotional well-being is also influenced by those who love us unconditionally, not just those who need the client report finished by the deadline. To work effectively, we have to also spend time not working.
Second, if every job is a part-time job, your colleagues are also part-time workers. They have lives too. Their friends and family, their health and their personal needs may be supported by their salary, but will and should always take precedence over their duties at the workplace. You can ask people to turn off their cellphones while serving customers, but you cannot ask them to turn off their mind and forget their own lives. You may punch a clock or arrive at work, but you do not stop being a parent, sibling or friend.
The words “part-time” also imply transience, as if at any moment someone might decide to leave the firm and focus entirely on their own needs. Of course, this is the case with everyone. Any of us might, for any number of reasons, chose to discontinue our relationship with our current employer. “Part-time” should remind us that we will eventually lose a valued team member. If we are not prepared to transition their duties the departure will always happen at the worst possible time.
Finally, the part-time nature of all work should put the act of work itself into perspective. We might spend more time at our jobs than we do with our families, but that’s not a sign that we love our jobs more. Rather, employment is a way to use our skills and knowledge part-time to enable the lifestyle we want and need full-time. To quote Fight Club: “You are not your job.” Your job merely enables you to be who you are.
Acknowledging the reality that all jobs are part-time presents the opportunity to design workflow more intelligently. If we assume that an employee will routinely be out of the office during regular business hours, we can make job descriptions, instructional diagrams, and operating procedures more robust. If we recognize that life is unpredictable and work hours often need to be flexible, we can rebuild our expectations about effort around results rather than face time. Individually, we can create checklists and projects plans with the expectation that someone else might need to finish the task without us.
This has become the tyranny of overtime. If anyone can be expected to be available at anytime, then how can we be ready for the reality that they aren’t? Employees are not robots. They are creative and excitable, but also exhaustible.
Work can be a source of tremendous stress. Our physical, emotional and mental well-being is often dominated by the demands of our jobs. Remember, however, that no matter how many weekends you work and how infrequent your vacations, your job is still a part-time job. Design your work flow and set your expectations accordingly, so that you can enjoy your full-time life.