Work-life balance updates
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‘Sorry, I can not do the meeting then. It’s blocked for my personal free time. ”
I said this a few weeks ago when someone posted an appointment in my diary for a meeting. They sound a little surprised at my point of view. I repeated that it was time for me to swim. The meeting was not urgent, and it could have easily been reworked at that time, but it still seems surprising about Zoom.
The arrival of September has always been a month of new beginnings, reflection and a chance to reconsider old habits and introduce better habits. This year, as the world begins to open up and our calendars fill up, I have realized that planning my free time is not just becoming a ‘fun to’ hack, but a radical act for my mental health.
One of the things I enjoyed during the restraint was the time to enjoy hobbies and discover who I am outside of work. Having a strong sense of self is more important than ever and being determined to be just as important as an ‘urgent’ meeting. Unfortunately, we do not place enough emphasis on this. research showed that the employees who are most satisfied are those who have a life outside the office.
Before the pandemic, many of us enjoyed ‘the cult of being busy’. Business has become the new status symbol and we have carried it with pride. And we all do it to varying degrees. With increasing burnout and the more I read about it, the more it feels like something that is not only expected of us but also encouraged. We say we wish we had more time for ourselves, but I realized that is not really what we want. A study by Silvia Beauty, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, researched how our status is indicated by our time use. It showed that we strive for a busy schedule rather than more free time.
When we look busy to others, our ego is stroked. Even if we feel completely burnt out and it affects our lives negatively, we still get something out of being ‘busy’. We romanticize the parts of our work that are unhealthy: looking busy, looking at long hours, checking our emails during dinner. In fact, we are so busy that we do not take the time to evaluate what makes us truly happy and fulfilled.
There is a pressure to love what you do, but when I entered the world of work with exactly this kind of passion and vitality, I was naive to the reality that loving your work can be a trap. You do not have to wake up every day. In one of me favorite episodes of the Channel 4 comedy Peep Show, about two unhappy housemates, Jeremy tells Mark, “I feel like my soul is being chopped away little by little,” and Mark replies sarcastically, “Welcome to the world of work, Jeremy.”
Although our work should not feel like our soul is being crushed, our unhealthy pursuit of the perfect job at the best of times feels like a job in itself. The more we romanticize the perfect job or career, the more we neglect ourselves that do not work, exactly what is essential to our happiness.
Personal fulfillment beyond the 9-5 life enables us to gain confidence, new skills, and a deeper sense of satisfaction. Time away from the office was an opportunity to rediscover creativity and encourage people to learn new skills. The figures speak for themselves: according to a YouGov poll, UK consumers an additional spend 24 percent on hobby supplies and 21 percent on books in 2020.
This is why hybrid work is the future and what we need to keep fighting for. It enables us to cultivate a life away from our desks and sandwich lunches, to immerse ourselves in our local communities, to develop hobbies and to maintain relationships with the people around us.
I enjoy what I do, but do not want to derive all my meaning and fulfillment from it. It’s too much pressure to place ourselves.
As we return to routines, we must continue to seek value in other areas of our lives. As the weeks get busy in the coming months, do not forget about the other things in life that you enjoy. Our work may not be the only meaningful thing in our lives, even if you like what you do.
The author is the author of ‘The Reset: Ideas to Change How We Work and Live’