In our digital age, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of work life balance. Today two-thirds of American workers report feeling burned out at work. Having a strategy to combat this is critical to our mental health and emotional well-being.
It’s also key to maximizing our productivity.
Why is work-life balance harder to manage today?
Before the advent of smartphones, achieving work life balance was a lot easier: Commit to spending fewer hours in the office and vow not to bring work home.
But today, most knowledge workers can do their jobs from anywhere. Our phones are mini-offices that we carry in our pockets. We talk to coworkers from the sidelines of our children’s soccer games, and sadly, we call into meetings from our vacations.
Research from Project: Time Off shows that the majority of American workers don’t take all of their vacation time. One reason is that they are afraid of the mountain of work that will await them when they return, so why bother? It’s clear that vacation policy in corporate America is broken.
And so are corporate email policies, if they exist at all. In the absence of clear communication guidelines, managers email team members at nights and on weekends. Knowledge workers are afraid not to respond to their managers’ emails in a timely way. They interrupt family dinners or children’s soccer games to do so.
The term “work martyr” has been coined recently, as many knowledge workers feel that they alone can do their jobs, and that the organization suffers when they don’t get “everything” done. This drives longer and longer work hours.
What is the importance of work-life balance?
With boundaries so blurred, it’s harder than ever to disengage our brains from work. But this is exactly what we need to do, even if we love our work.
There is ample evidence that taking vacation is critical to our mental health and our physical health. The Framingham Heart Study studied 12,000 men at risk for heart disease. Researchers found that the men who took more frequent vacations lived longer. Other studies find that vacations lower clinical depression, blood pressure and cortisol levels.
If that’s not compelling enough, here’s another reason to disengage from work: research shows that after working 50 hours a week, our productivity goes down. And after 55 hours, it goes way, way down. And yet, a Gallup Poll that found a full 50% of salaried, American workers put in more than 50 hours a week.
Achieving work life balance provides a dual win: when we have it, we improve our overall health, but we also increase our productivity.
How can we achieve work life balance in the digital age?
The digital age brings so many benefits. Workers around the world can easily connect. We now have access to the world’s knowledge base through the internet. Unfortunately, though, our technology makes it particularly challenging for us to achieve work life balance.
Attention management is a set of skills that help us achieve work-life balance in the digital age. It involves training our brains to match the task at hand to the environment. Attention management increases our productivity at work, as well as helps us disengage from work when we’re at home or on vacation.
Why is attention management training important to work life balance?
My Empowered Productivity Training Program, based on attention management, offers executives and their teams the ability to live and work proactively, rather than reactively. The goal is to decrease burnout and increase overall happiness.
In the training, we discuss strategies for addressing common challenges in the modern workplace, such as:
- How to deal with the constant bombardment from email
- How to triage after-hours issues, and
- How to find time for reflective, visionary work.
In striving to improve employee satisfaction, the importance of work life balance can’t be overstated. By offering attention management training, corporate leaders help their team members to maximize productivity and maintain a healthy work-life balance. This leaves employees refreshed rather than frazzled at the end of each workday, making them not only better professionals, but better parents, spouses, friends, and community members.
Start finding your work life balance with my book
While I’ve trained thousands of executives and knowledge workers with my Empowered Productivity program, I reach many more people through my books.
One of my recent books is called Attention Management: How to Gain Success and Increase Productivity Every Day. I designed this book so that you can read it in one hour. In it, I introduce you to the practice of attention management skills and provide you with exercises to get started. Do these exercises and you’ll begin to develop the ability to manage your attention.
And attention management is the key to finding work life balance in the digital age.