Work life balance?
Before we went away, I had a rather pathetic undramatic realisation that mine is utterly, frankly, crap.
I don’t have a work life balance.
I don’t switch off.
Being a blogger, or social media “influencer” (and I hate that word, it’s pretentious, and frankly stupid, but I can’t think of another word off the top of my head and I don’t honestly think my cat spam, random photos of my kids and the vast quantities of coffee I share about influences anyone) means that you are on “duty” more than not. I wrote a post about not sharing every moment of our holiday, and how social media has set a trend that even when we are supposed to be taking a break, we are still constantly self obliged to share our life. I think we need to be able to switch off. To be blunt, if you HAVE to blog and social media whilst on holiday, to keep up your stats, then you need to rethink what you are doing.
When I worked as a nurse, for the NHS, my days off, annual leave and time away from work were my own. When I walked out of work, I switched off (mostly, sometimes if I had lost a patient, or had had a particualry challenging family to work with) and my out of work life was my domain. My boss wouldn’t call me at 8pm on a Friday night asking me about medication for a patient, or where the syringe drivers were, or how to manage the feeding pumps, or what sensory activities I had organised for a special needs patient, or asking me to come in and do half an hours work) and if I was not working for a weekend, I was NOT working. I had a work life balance, in as much as a nurse can have.
As someone who works for myself, as a blogger and running a small local charity, I do really struggle to switch off, and to define my working hours, boundaries for when I will and will not answer calls, read and reply to mails, look at sms messages and respond, interact on social media, etc. It’s hard because if I don’t do the work, no one else will, but I also do need to be able to switch off.
We have as a society come to expect 24/7/365 access and when you get work demands coming at you at all hours, because we work all hours now, it’s hard to say “actually, this is my non work time, I am not dealing with that”. It could mean the piece of work that I am being asked to do, for a fee, goes to someone else, it could mean that the PR who wants to work with me contacts someone else, because I don’t respond to a mail at 7pm on a Friday night. It could mean that someone else trying to plan their time has to wait for me to get back to them, because whilst yes, they have a life they need to organise, I don’t HAVE to respond to their e mail sent at 11pm at night, on a weekend.
We have become so reliant on people being switched on all the time. It’s unhealthy.
So, I have reverted to office hours and out of office. I am not fully into it yet, and I have had to slip in and out, to deal with things, here and there, but I am slowly putting in some new rules.
after 5pm on Friday, until 8am Monday morning, I don’t read work e mail.
All social media for the weekends is scheduled and if I do use social media for work, it can only be when I have no family or personal demands pending (ie, if my family doesn’t need me, which is very rare)
No work calls or sms of any kind will be dealt with over the weekends.
I have deleted work mail off my personal phone. That makes it a hassle to access, so I don’t generally bother.
If we are having a family weekend, then all forms of communication are off. I have a private phone that I use that approximately 4 people have the number for, and I can be free and relaxed.
Using my proper camera more, and not taking my phone to use for photographs. No phone, no way of being got hold of or sneaking ten minutes of work in when I should be switched off.
Auto reply on all services so people are clear about when and why I won’t be available.
Being accountable. The husband will be very gracious and allow me work time if I need it, in an emergency, but if I tell him I need half an hour to deal with something, and I don’t stick to that, he will nudge me to make sure I am being sensible about our time and boundaries.
Saying NO. It’s a good word to use. No, I won’t be doing a piece of work on a Sunday morning. No, I won’t be taking your call to organise something you need, at 4pm on a Saturday, you get the drift.
It’s going to be interesting. I don’t know how to switch off, my self care and work life balance really are broken. I need to fix them, for my own mental health, and also for my family.
So, out of office, here we come.
If you practice good work life balance, I would love to hear your tips and tricks and how you manage. Or are you, like me, struggling to get it right?