Work & Life: A Zen Engagement

The Struggle With Finding Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance has traditionally been one of the most important aspects of happiness, and with good reason — being able to control your time on your terms is crucial for feeling fulfilled and taking care of yourself emotionally and physically.

But according to research conducted by Gartner, workers are struggling more than ever with work-life balance, even though we’re working fewer hours than previous generations. And after a recent global pandemic, numbers show that about one-third of professionals reported that today it's harder to achieve work-life balance than ever before.

So what’s going on?

At what point does work-life balance shift to work-life chaos? 

Well, with advances in technology and the rise of social media, it is easier than ever to create these dangerous and unintended personal/professional boundaries (or lack thereof). As a result, employees are starting to look for opportunities to balance work and life elsewhere, which means that companies need to compete with other employers to obtain top-tier talent and retain them.

“You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life.”
- Heather Schuck

Let’s explore ideas and concepts to iron out most of life’s wrinkles and get a smoother picture of how life could be. Find out how each connection and disconnect have profound and impactful benefits to your personal and professional environments, and how this engagement with both sides of the same coin can lead to a zen moment while balancing both. 

The work-life bespoke solution

Ever heard, "What would you do if you were me?" Sure you have! And frankly, no one cares about your life as much as you do (or should). There’s a huge distortion between what we think our colleagues are up to and reality. It's great to take care of yourself and not feel guilty about taking personal time to be mentally alert for your loved ones or doing what’s best for you, versus having a wandering mind on what’s working for others.

The work-life balance dilemma is complicated and it doesn’t have any simple solutions — it’s quite bespoke! 

Some of us struggle to find balance because we’re spending too much time at work, others because we want to spend more time with our loved ones, and the rest, well, just lost in a maze. If you need some help figuring out how to pinpoint that healthy balance, here are a few suggestions to find out for yourself:

  1. Be honest about what kind of balance you want—and whether or not your current lifestyle allows for it; 
  2. Hire someone who can help manage your workload so that you can take some time off, or organize your holidays to take a “sabbatical” during the year; 
  3. Set personal and professional boundaries (especially if you have kids); 
  4. See if there’s anything else in your life contributing to your burnout (identify stress factors or unnecessary worries); 
  5. Spend less time on social media and enjoy real human connections instead! 
  6.  Join a meetup/hobby group, or start one of your own to connect with like-minded people and build friendships outside of work; 
  7. Get moving! As Nike famously put it “Just do it!”

             * Pro-tip: For every action, there’s a reaction in the world.

There’s no one size fits all solution, but whatever kind of work-life balance resonates with you, these ideas will help inspire solutions tailored for you. Not being able to zone into your passions and interests creates an increased work-life balance problem which is extremely important in today's society to solve. So get cracking. 

Unplug from work and Plug into self

In a world where technology is always advancing and employees are constantly being faced with new collaborative technologies, it's really difficult to disconnect with who you're working for and with. If a person spends all of their time at work, they won't find many humanizing touches that remind them that there’s life outside of the job. An entanglement between your personal life and work will affect your ability to produce quality work and live a healthy lifestyle without the separation. 

For example, establish boundaries early on and focus on being professional and friendly while limiting your bandwidth within the company. Consider only communicating with team members when you have something to say, no need to drag on any unnecessary chatter. When it’s time to clock out —​ go live a little.

Once work has finished, end your day and do things for yourself. Kick back and relax on a good book, pick up your favorite hobby once again, do some gardening, watch a series or movie you’ve been wanting to see. 

Learn to unplug from work once working hours are finished and plug into yourself. Do yourself a favor with some “me time” and unwind from work. 

And no, prioritizing yourself is not selfish, it’s personal selflessness! 

Save time for your favorite hobbies, like reading or photography.

Finding meaningful work

The definition for “meaningful work” can vary as much as “profession with purpose”, but they tend to have commonalities such as a job that has both personal and professional impact. In other words, work that not only puts food on your table but also improves lives and adds value. These opportunities don’t come around very often, but when they do, it is incredibly important to recognize them and secure them without any obsessions. 

The easiest way to find these jobs is by developing relationships with other individuals in your community or inner circles and having genuine discussions about life’s expectations. As you evolve and progress in your career, taking time to strengthen these types of relationships will help you build an extended network of people who can support you at all stages of life and work. A healthy balance is being formed.

“Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.” 
- Hillary Clinton

 If you want to know how to find meaningful work, start by asking yourself some questions:

  • What do you value most in life? 
  • Do you want to make a significant impact on society?  
  • Do you just want to increase your wealth and health? 

Answering these questions will help clarify what type of work is right for you or if your current path is adequate. Once you figure out what’s most important, it will be easier to identify jobs that fit your needs and desires.

Once you’ve established what type of work is right for you, it’s time to look for meaningful job opportunities that fit your lifestyle and you feel can be balanced once you start. 

Improving our work environment

Positive thinking is great, but work is work. There are going to be days where you just barely make it through the working hours because the day was relentlessly terrible and life, in general, has been unbearable. 

You may find yourself feeling as if a good day just falls flat because there are no pleasant memories from which to take comfort. Or maybe it's not so much that the day at work was bad, but it lacked the zing of accomplishment or the feeling of relief we experience after crushing our workload and making things better with co-workers we had issues with.

Our work environment is constantly competing with other aspects of life for our time, energy and attention. Or as Andrew Wilkinson elegantly puts it, “You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful. It’s natural to look back and mythologize the long nights and manic moments of genius, but success isn’t about working hard, it’s about working smart.”

The physical space we work and the hours we spend doing the work pays the bills, but, too often, it's less than welcoming and motivating. We need to create one or two "holy" places in our home (and at work) where we can shut out the world, focus on what's important, and get more creative.

Be aware of your social media use

Technology is a double-edged sword, making it easier to work 24/7, but also allowing us to connect with people all over the world. What you don’t want to do is let your virtual life take precedence over your physical one. A healthy balance between online and offline interactions can increase productivity and make you happier as a whole. So get out and explore!

Social Media: Handle with care!

Getting away from your phone and personal computer can lead to clearer thinking, as well as boost creativity making you more focused at work. It could even reduce stress levels and give you a better sense of wellbeing. And while it might seem like there are tons of friends online, studies have shown that interacting face-to-face is much more satisfying than chatting via text or messaging platforms.

“Limiting time on social media can actually help you to improve and appreciate relationships that are real and true.” 
- Germany Kent

In fact, studies have shown that connecting face-to-face with others can reduce stress and anxiety while enhancing overall wellbeing. It also makes you happier. So, if you’re feeling down or just need a pick me up in general, try leaving your house and going out to experience some offline human interaction. You might be surprised at how beneficial it is to see people in person!

If you’re too plugged in with your online world, you’ll miss out on so many benefits that being social in the physical world has to offer. So disconnect from time to time and enjoy interactions with people face-to-face as opposed to face-time. 

Building a sense of community at work

In every instance of successful workplace collaboration, a sense of community is key. Without this sense of community, teams struggle to be productive. This complicates the situation and makes it difficult for managers to foster an environment that encourages teamwork. 

Fortunately, we provide 3 ways managers can invoke a more cohesive feeling among their employees. So take notes:

  1.  Assemble a group of problem solvers. People are more inclined to be dedicated to something they have a hand in, therefore this improves commitment. Be a wonderful host at the gathering. This isn't your problem to resolve. The event is only being hosted by you (not managed). Make it clear — let them solve the challenge.

  2. Promote a wide range of viewpoints. We all have unique ideas and views. Inviting individuals to talk about their perspectives on the world is a great way to start. Pose inquiries that necessitate in-depth answers. After that, pay attention and absorb info.

  3. Pay attention to the community's energy. Take notes of what comes up in the talk. What is it that they genuinely want to talk and learn about? Have discussions that the people in the room want to have to build, grow and create the work environment.

As a leader, we encourage you to understand more about what it means to co-create a community. This is the way leadership will evolve in the future. Great leaders are community stewards who present themselves as their true selves. They abandon the conventional leadership paradigms in favor of something more fluid and inclusive to understand the wants and needs of their team.


Life & work - a full circle

Perfect balance is hard to achieve but an ongoing practice.

The main reason for the focus on work-life balance is that employees are experiencing increased job dissatisfaction. They feel that employers have taken for granted the importance of work-life balance and life has become unbearable, or worse.

Employers must offer a version of time off to their employees so that they find fulfillment outside of their careers and can continue to be productive throughout their lives.

This is important because more and more people are finding it difficult to balance a successful career with other aspects of life because they don't feel like there’s enough time in the day to do everything that is desired by society. 

Unicorn Workspaces Portugal supports a zen engagement to how life and work should marry. We provide all the resources needed to help you achieve your career and life goals in and out of the office. Ask us how we can find a bespoke solution to your work environment needs and other helpful advice to get your work and life balanced.

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