Newly appointed speaker of the house Paul Ryan accepted his position stating the one condition that “I cannot and will not give up my family time.” This family time consists of 3-day weekends travelling to his home in Wisconsin to be with his wife and children. There has been debate about the fact that he required this as a stipulation for accepting his new position, despite the fact that he opposes public policies like paid family leave. Regardless, it does bring about the question: how do we maintain a healthy work-life balance, especially when our jobs often place heavy demands on our time and energy?

In an article printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer several years ago, Legacy Business Cultures founder and CEO Paul Meshanko was quoted as saying:

“There’s a lot of fear that people have about their relative security at their jobs, and I think one of the ways we respond is that we throw ourselves into our work. We try to out-hustle everybody around us to keep up the appearance that we’re team players.”

Unfortunately, this can often result in less time spent with family and friends as well as sacrificing one’s own personal well-being and physical health. Poor work-life balance can also affect an employees satisfaction and engagement at work, resulting in losses in productivity. This is particularly true for the emerging Millennial generation who cite work-life balance as a top priority and frequently leave jobs if this priority is not met.

Meshanko goes on to explain in the article,

“If you ask these people what their values are, almost everybody will tell you that family is one of their top priorities,” Meshanko said. But, if you look at their behaviors, you see that non-work priorities place second, third or even fourth.

In today’s high-stress workplace, we are seeing those behaviors creep down lower and lower in the organization, Meshanko said. “I had one mid-level director in a company who said to me, ‘Down time? I don’t have down time. I basically have a dimmer switch.’”

It is clearly evident the benefits a healthy work-life balance have both on the individual as well as organizations, as Richard Branson will attest to in this video. Hopefully the time comes when the leadership at more companies take a similar viewpoint. Until then, it is necessary for each individual employee to assess their own personal priorities in order to take control of supporting a healthy work-life balance.

The following are a few tips that can be useful to consider when seeking a better work-life balance.

  1. Take time to determine your most important values and organize them by priority.

    An exercise that is used during our Connecting With Respect and Increasing Human Effectiveness workshops is to ask participants to create a list of their top values and then to organize them by priority. Often values such as “family”, and “health” are mentioned at the top of the list. This then requires participants to reassess how much time they spend during their day supporting other values that they don’t list near the top.

  2. Learn and make use of your employer’s policies regarding vacation time, flextime, or working from home.

    These policies are all put in place to help employees achieve a better work-life balance and should be utilized for this purpose. Also be sure to clearly communicate to your coworkers and managers as far in advance as possible about when your time is needed away from work in order to avoid any conflicts.

  3. Learn to say “No.”

    Not everyone can be everywhere and do everything that is requested of them. Some demands simply cannot be met during a limited amount of time throughout the day. This is where the prioritization of our own personal values comes in handy. When we acknowledge what our top priorities are, it becomes that much easier to say “no” without feeling guilty when a demand comes up that simply does not fit into our schedule if it also does not rank at the top of our list of priorities.

  4. Develop a trusted support network.

    Sometimes, we can rely on others to meet demands that we do not have the time to meet ourselves. Find others who you trust who may be willing from time to time to step in and help out when you need them and also be willing to do the same for them.