By| Gina L. Cafasso
I have a demanding job. It’s not physical, but the job can be mentally draining. I have to be on my A-game at all times. I work in an industry that can be very lucrative for some clients or break piggy banks wide open for others. We have some control over where they put their money, but no control on how their audience will respond or if they will buy their products. It’s a tough business, and I am invested in my clients. If they don’t succeed, we as a company will not succeed. My team has years of experience. We can nudge clients to take risks where they may see large payoffs. But it’s not always the case. With anything in life, there is a lot of uncertainty.
I work very hard not to take my work home. Very rarely, I will get a call or email from a client late at night. For the most part, I leave everything at the office. However, the stress of my job has poured over into my personal life. I need to get better at that. Life is too short. I can even see it on my forehead. I have a 40 minute (one hour with traffic) commute to work each way. It’s not as bad in the summer time. I used to be a night person. Now, I’m up at 5:00 am each morning. I leave work between 5:30 pm or 6:00 pm ‘ish and either head to the gym, go home and crash, visit my parents, or try and meet friends every once in a while. I do try to get out more frequently on weekends.
All of this got me thinking about how others balance their work, life, families and a social life. So, I conducted a survey to gain some perspective. The response at first was very surprising but as more and more people responded, the playing field evened out a bit. The majority of responses came from women. That was no surprise. The ratio was 78.57% female to 21.43% male. The main age group was between the ages of 40-49 (64.29%). I asked a total of 10 questions and here are the responses.
I don’t know about you, but every company I have worked for pride themselves on promoting work/life balance. Rarely does it apply. I’m not saying it’s not out there, but I do feel you have to make that balance for yourself. The number one response to how to balance work/life, by an overwhelming margin was, “I have a demanding job that requires I invest a good amount of time in what I do. But I do make time for a personal life.” Whew! There was a tie for second place between: “My career/business consumes me” to “my life comes first, job second.” Those are quite opposite extremes of the spectrum. The number one obstacle for a work/life balance was “an overwhelming workload that doesn’t quit.”
How do you rank?
I asked those polled to evaluate and rank statements related to work. The number one ranked statement related to how to take criticism: “When a supervisor or executive criticizes me or my work, I learn from it, takes their feedback, apply it and move on.” Good for you. You don’t take it personally and move on by gaining insight in the process. It’s good to remind yourself of that every time someone critiques your work. Take it as a growing positive versus a put down. Next in line was, “I am the breadwinner and need my job. I will do whatever it takes to make it work.” I should clarify, “ whatever it takes” is strictly professional. At least I hope it relates to the boardroom. These were followed by a four-way tie:
• I’m passionate about my career and love what I do.
• Work gets in the way of my personal life on a frequent basis.
• Work gets in the way of spending quality time with my family.
• I deal with unrealistic expectations in my current job and barely stay above water.
How does work impact your relationships?
I asked a simple true/false question and added a “sometimes” for the heck of it. Are your personal relationships affected by your career/business? It was a tie between sometimes and false. It’s important to make time for your loved ones: family, spouse, significant other and friends. Although, your time may be less and less these days, find it.
How do you personally…?
These were my favorite answers by far. I had a good chuckle at some of the responses. There is a common theme as you will see.
Cope with stress: Cry • Beer • exercise • cook • read • keep your mind and body busy • have a hobby • work out • drink • yoga • sports • TV • drink • pills and massages • shut down • swim • drink (sense the theme?) • I don’t.
Balance your schedule: Ha! (favorite response by the way) • leave work stuff at work • I live by my calendar and schedule everything • organization • schedule family time • prioritize the things that are most important to me such as family and loved ones • reserve my weekends for social and family activities • I quit my job to allow for more time with family (all power to you, if you can afford to do it) • let something go • works is the majority/private is second • manage my client load • make time for me • I don’t.
Cope with a demanding boss: Cry • communication • manage up • take it with a grain of salt • ask for help • not applicable • with patience and understanding • try viewing things from others point of view • drink (apparently the theme is carrying over into other categories) • out work him/her • ignore him/her • set expectations up front • speak my mind and stick up for myself.
Find ways to make work more enjoyable: Sleep • plan gatherings outside of work • remember it’s just a job • relationships in the office as well as clients, vendors or customers • say “no” more often • it’s impossible • create positive relationships and bonds with your coworkers • make time for yourself and family • just do it • hire good quality people • keep convenient hours • I have no life – all I do is work • I don’t (this person needs a massage).
Would you quit your job if you won the lottery?
Well, this answer was a shocker. 85.71% responded with a resounding, “ hell yes!” 14.29% said no. Okay, fair enough. I’m with the 85.71% of you.
How do you rank what is important to you?
I’ve seen variations of this question in numerous articles and books. How would you rank the following?: Self, money, children, spouse/significant other, success, and career. At first, I was shocked by the response. The two number one choices were self & success. At the bottom of the list was spouse/significant other. As results trickled in, I saw the results shift. The final results ended in a three-way tie for #1: Children, spouse/significant other and self. Followed by #2 money, #3 career and #4 success. A friend once told me that you should put yourself at the top of the list because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone or anything else. I get that, and it makes total sense to me. However, the way I am, I rank myself third on the list even though #1 and #2 are currently missing from my life.
I forgot to ask one question in my survey: Do you put added pressure on yourself? Often, we are harder on ourselves when it comes to our work more so than any supervisor or coworker. Personally, I always feel I have a lot to learn and welcome the opportunity to grow. Mind you, there are times I would rather bury my head in the sand and wave a white flag. However, I remember where I’ve been, good and bad, and what I have accomplished. I’ve had coworkers tell me they feel they can learn a lot from me and my experience. I am amazed by that because although I may come across like I’m confident in my current and past roles, I doubt myself constantly. When I look over my resume, I am impressed by what I’ve done. I need to remember that. My problem is that I always feel something is missing. Maybe that is the Capricorn in me, always climbing.
All in all, people do pride themselves on trying to maintain a work/life balance. It’s not easy all the time especially when you have family obligations and a demanding job. If you love your work, you can find the balance. If you don’t, find it. Thank you to all who participated in the survey. Now go back to work!