The “9 to 5 job”—is there any phrase that’s more laughable than that?
With round-the-clock email accessibility and phones that only get switched off on airplanes, most of the employed population struggles to achieve work/life balance. And, perhaps we’re biased, but office ninjas face an even bigger challenge. Sure, we can basically do anything and everything, but at some point “any time” got thrown in there too. And, before we knew it, we started getting calls in the restroom… and the callers expected an answer.
Work/life balance is a tricky issue, so we consulted the experts: our community of office ninjas. Based on our conversations, we identified 3 key ways to create or regain work/life balance.
First of all, it’s up to you to identify your boundaries and share them with your manager and coworkers. If certain times in the evenings are sacred or you know that responding to emails on Saturdays simply isn’t realistic, be clear and upfront. This kind of transparency ensures that everyone knows exactly what to expect.
Office Ninja Cindy B., who works as an Executive Assistant at hybris Software, touched upon this very point. She wrote:
I still work long hours but I don’t feel bad about dropping my kid at school or taking a lunch break. There is more pressure to be available to them but I set limits and strive to maintain consistency in my schedule so my executives and family know what they can expect from me.
Put Yourself on the Schedule
There’s a reason we schedule certain meetings and conversations: they’re a priority and cannot be missed. Make sure you’re giving your personal time the same level of consideration. Lunch breaks, an exercise class and even a 10-minute walk can all help us feel more centered and balanced. Make appointments with yourself and keep them the same way you would a meeting with your boss or a colleague.
Janine B., an Administrative Services Manager, found this tactic to be particularly helpful. She wrote:
I would mark my calendar ‘12pm-1:30pm gym’ or ‘offline’ so that everyone I supported understood. This was something that I was fortunate enough to work out with my execs. Before then, it wasn’t uncommon for me to be ‘on vacation’ and have my laptop out by the pool.
Move On if You Need To
So, what happens when you set boundaries that your boss doesn’t respect and make appointments that your coworkers ignore? If your work environment is starting to take a toll on your health and happiness and there’s no relief in sight, it may be time to move on.
MJ, an Executive Assistant who spent 20 years “on call” for the executives she supported, had this very experience. She wrote:
It was the last company I worked for that woke me up and I got fed up. I took almost a year of disability because of anxiety attacks, emotional and physical stress and that really made me realize that I need a life. I had forgotten how to smile and just be the happy no attitude person I used to be. The last four years have been wonderful with the company I work for now. I can work from home when I need to and my boss doesn’t bother me after 5pm or before 9am unless it’s an emergency. No stress at all!! I’m enjoying more of my personal life but still staying as a rockstar at my work place!
Work/life balance is achievable—even for the all-powerful office ninja! It just takes a little planning, a willingness to stick to your guns, and, sometimes, the strength to walk away from an unhealthy situation.
What are your tips for maintaining work/life balance?