Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
I recently saw a posting in a Facebook group about work life balance. The OP (original poster) was asking about interviewing for a job in a 24/7/365 industry and whether you could have “work life balance”.
Lots of people shared their stories and many people encouraged the person to ask about work life balance during the interview. This is great advice. Regardless of whether you work in a 24/7/365 industry or not, it’s important to understand expectations when it comes to working hours.
But there were two things that I didn’t see come up in the discussion. The first is that each of us must define what work life balance means for us. We can’t assume that work life balance means Monday through Friday from 8:30a to 5:00p and every single holiday off. Maybe it does for some people, but not everyone.
I’ve worked with people who worked 10:00a to 6:00p because it allowed them to drop their kids off at school and to be available for our offices which were in a different time zone. I’ve worked with individuals who were happy to work on Easter and Christmas because they took Passover and Rosh Hashanah off. It was great that the organization and employee were able to work something out that benefitted both.
And sometimes being asked to work on a day that you haven’t traditionally worked can be an unexpected source of fun and enjoyment. One of the hotels I worked at asked the management team to work on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Your choice. But since the employees couldn’t take those days off, it just seemed wrong to let every member of the management team take those days off. I know some people might find this to be “ugh” but the controller and I both chose Christmas Eve. We would dress up in costumes and hand out candy to the kids staying the hotel. It was fun. Then our families would meet us and we would have Christmas Eve dinner together. Again, not what I expected but it was nice.
Which brings me to my second point. And this has to do with our roles as human resources professionals. Once you decide what work life balance means to you, then you have to decide if that will allow you to effectively do your job.
Let’s say your version of work life balance means Monday through Friday 8:30a to 5:00p. If I’m an employee who works the overnight shift, when do I get to interact with HR? And if there’s someone else in the HR department who likes coming in early or working a weekend, then great. But HR has to think about the operation and employees they are supporting.
This isn’t to say that a person’s work life balance expectations are wrong. Work life balance is important, and it contributes to a person’s wellbeing. Unfortunately, I’ve seen people not be honest with themselves about their work life balance and end up being stressed out and burned out. So …
- Define what work life balance means to you.
- When looking at new opportunities, understand work expectations.
- If you’re asking for others to be flexible, then be flexible yourself.
- Be realistic about whether you can do the job and maintain your wellbeing.
This little list was very easy to type up. The reality is this can be a challenge. And I believe the hardest part is at the beginning. Defining work life balance is very personal. It also takes the support of family and friends. Taking the time to understand your own needs and wants is worth it.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Salt Lake City, UT43