You won’t have to look far to find opinions about the concerns people have about the balance between work and life away from work.
It is a popular topic, and for some, it is almost an obsession. In fact, only about a third of full-time workers in the US say they strongly believe they have a good work/life balance.
While it is concerning that this many people feel this way, it could be a matter of perception rather than reality. The ways we work have changed considerably over the last quarter century, and the way we live has changed as well. We are more connected than we ever were in the past, and we now have the ability to accomplish more at home and at work.
If you are worried about your work/life balance, it is important to consider whether this is really the case or if this is just your perception. For example, your office might not focus on management by objectives, but that doesn’t mean company leaders are unaware of how staff feel. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that can distort your perception of your current work/life balance to see if you really have a problem or if you are simply living a life that is in line with the realities of the modern world.
1. The Balancing Act has Changed
Generations of the past had a very distinct line between work and home life. This made it much easier to understand the work/life balance and to tell whether it was unhealthy. For modern workers, these lines have started to blur.
Much of this is the result of technology. We now have communication channels like email, text, and smartphone applications that we take everywhere. This not only makes it much easier to stay connected to your work when you are at home, but it also makes it easier to stay connected to your personal life when you are at work.
With this level of connectivity, it is now normal to check your work emails when you are having your morning coffee, finish work projects from your home office and talk or message with colleagues during your day off. For many people, these behaviors might make it seem like their life is way out of balance, but there is another side to this issue.
Along with taking some work home, most workers are also bringing more of their home life to the office. It is very common for people to answer personal calls when they are at work. People are also checking and answering personal emails and scrolling through their social media feeds throughout the day.
When you look at the two sides together, you might see that you have more balance than you previously thought. Some research has even shown that this type of balance exists for most workers. In a survey of Canadian workers, 51% said they handle work matters in their personal time and 46% said they handle personal matters when they are at work.
2. Setting Goals in Life and at Work
Most people have goals for both their work life and their life away from their career. However, most do not achieve everything in both areas. For some, this might make it seem like they have an unhealthy work/life balance.
That’s why it’s important to set goals for your career and personal life while understanding that you may not achieve everything you set out to do or that they may not all be completed on the timeline you expected.
Once you know what you want to achieve, you can decide on your priorities. Set goals for your life and career and then identify which are most important. Look for the ones that will have the biggest impact toward getting you to where you want to go in your life or career. You should also prioritize the goals that will help to move you closer to completing other goals.
You might not be able to get to everything you want to in your life, but if you can tick off the biggest and most important goals in both your personal life and at work, you will feel much better about your work/life balance.
3. The Reality Filter
Social media is useful for a lot of things, but one thing it is not good at is providing you with a realistic picture of what is going on outside of your life. When you look at your friend’s social media profiles, their live may look perfect, but most people put forward an inaccurate depiction of their lives on social media. They post the things they want everyone to see and filter out anything that does not match the image they want to project. In one survey, a mere 18.7% of respondents said their Facebook profile was an accurate representation of their life.
While most of these lies or omissions might be minor, they can make a person’s life look much better than it really is. When you look at the profiles of friends and family members, you see nights out and vacations, but you do not see them staying late at the office, working on a project over the weekend, or answering a work call in the middle of dinner.
You might look at the social media posts of your friends and think they have the perfect work/life balance and this may cause you to wonder what you are doing wrong in your own life. The reality is that they probably have the same problems you do, but they’re just filtering them out online.
Having a good work/life balance is important, but you need to be able to accurately assess this balance. For many people, the issue is a perceived imbalance, which can be almost as bad as having a life that is actually out of balance.
Author: Rae Steinbach, guest post editor
Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.