The Occupational Dimension of Work-Life Balance

“Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.” Albert Camus

In the last two issues of the “Tuesday Tip,” I’ve been writing about work-life balance. And I gave you several tips on how you can balance out the first two dimensions of life — the PHYSICAL and the RECREATIONAL.

The third dimension is OCCUPATIONAL — and it’s a biggie, because we spend so much of our lives “on the job.” Unfortunately, there’s a lot of cheating going on in this area.

Some people are CHEATING THEIR COMPANIES. When employees are paid $20 an hour, for example, but give back a mere $10 of effort per hour, they’re stealing from the company. They’re giving their work too little attention.

Other people are CHEATING THEIR FAMILIES. Their jobs keep them so busy that their family members see and feel their physical and emotional absence. And when their family members complain about the absence, these cheaters try to convince their family members that “things will slow down at work… and … things aren’t so bad.” They’re giving their work too much attention.

Still other people are CHEATING THEMSELVES when it comes to the OCCUPATIONAL dimension of work-life balance. They minimize their contributions by using the “just” word. They’ll say, “I’m just a secretary … I’m just an assistant manager … I’m just a truck driver.” The “just” word strips away the pride they should have in the work they do — and without pride, work stress turns into job burnout.

I like the way Thomas S. Haggai put it. He wrote:

“Monday. Do you look forward to the start of the workweek with excitement or a sigh of resignation? Do you think of enduring Monday through Friday so you can enjoy Saturday and Sunday? If so, your attitude could indicate a denial of your own self-importance, a belittling of your own self-worth.

“None of us are unimportant or insignificant; none of our jobs or achievements are small. In the economy of your world … there are no little people.

“The president of a giant corporation may be recognized as important, but the job cannot be done without the shelves you stock, the cloth you weave, the wood you finish, the sale you make, the machinery you build, the smile you give a new customer. The company cannot survive without people like you.

“Business is a vast and harmonious symphony, and to work properly, it takes all the notes and all the instruments.”

I think Haggai is right. But Haggai’s words may seem too idealistic for some organizations. After all, it’s difficult for employees to take pride in their work if their organization can delete their positions or downsize their departments — almost at will — with little or no warning.

It’s difficult to maintain your pride in that kind of situation. But it’s not impossible. If you’ve been a faithful reader of my “Tuesday Tips,” you know I’ve outlined dozens of things you can do to maintain a positive attitude.

And today I want to give you a few more tips to maintain your balance in the OCCUPATIONAL dimension of life. After all, you’ve got to keep yourself from giving your job/career too little or too much attention. So try these things.

=> Think About What You Want To Do When It Comes To Work.

Never give up on what you really want to do. You only have a limited amount of time, and if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, it’s time to make a change.

=> Evaluate The Quality Of Your Work-Life Balance.

Look at what you’re putting into your job and what you’re getting out of it. As you make your evaluation, use your own standards — not your parents’ or your boss’s or your colleagues’ or the world’s. Find out if you’re giving up too much or compromising too many of your values.

=> Look At How Your Job Affects Your Family.

Not only now but five years from now. Time does pass more quickly than you think, and you’ll soon be facing the consequences of your work decisions. It might help to remind yourself that at the end of life, no one has ever said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

=> Don’t Take A Job Just Because The Salary Is High.

If you hate the job, more money will not make you like it. All money can do is anesthetize your problems, not cure them.

=> Weigh The Pros And Cons Of Any Promotion Possibilities.

Don’t rush into this important decision. Promotions often come with a corresponding increase in workload. Is it worth it?

=> Lunch With A Family Member Once In A While.

If you have to miss a family dinner, then invite a family member to lunch. Give that person your undivided attention during that precious hour. It will add a positive note to your relationship.

=> Ask Permission To Do Some Work At Home.

More and more companies are allowing employees to do this, especially if the job is computer related. You’ll have an extra hour or two — that you could have spent commuting — to give to your job and your family.

=> Seek Help From Your Boss Or Personnel Department.

Many superiors are simply unaware of the pressure they are putting on an employee’s family by demanding overtime. Speak up. You may be surprised how helpful your boss can be.

=> Invite Me Into Your Organization.

Ask me to deliver my program entitled, “TAKE THIS JOB AND LOVE IT: A Program for Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Balancing Life.” I know it works, and so do thousands of others who have attended the program.

=> Consider Changing Jobs If Your Family Is Suffering.

No job is worth sacrificing your spouse or children. I know; I made that mistake many years ago. And it took me years to rectify the damage. No career is more important than your relationship with those you love.

If your life is out of balance, there is no better time than now to make the necessary changes. Yes, it will take a little courage, and a little effort, but the payoff will be enormous for you, your family, your organization, and your customers.

Action:  Ask yourself two questions.

1. If I don’t change a thing in the way I approach my work, will my family be in “better” or “worse” shape a year from now?

2. And will I be in “better” or “worse” shape a year from now?

If your answer is “in worse shape,” pick a couple of the tips I gave you in today’s “Tip,” and start applying them immediately.