By Olivia Anderson, PhD, RH
I am all about work-life balance, but, in the age of smartphones and 24/7 connectivity, what exactly does that mean?
Whether you are a student or a professional, you have probably experienced work-life imbalance at some point, if not almost constantly. For many people, work creates a sense of fulfillment and an identity1. However, work is just one small piece of life.
There are economic, health, and other benefits to having a job,2 but long hours impact work productivity and accuracy as well as mental and physical health3, 4. For example, individuals working 41 or more hours per week are at increased risk for heart disease compared to their counterparts working 40 hours a week5.
We do not necessarily live to work6. This realization was brought to light by scholars and policymakers around 1980, prompting discussion about how organizations could implement policies to support finding a healthy balance between work and personal life.
As technology advanced, people started to assume that increased efficiency during the workday would make more time for life. It seems this hypothesis backfired.
High expectations for employees and students to always be accessible due to technology leads to more time outside of work spent on work-related activities. In a survey of US workers, more than 80 percent of respondents said they check email on the weekend and more than 30 percent check email before even getting out of bed7. In fact, full-time employees in the US break the standard 9-to-5, 40-hour workweek and rather work an average of 47 hours a week8.
It’s important to be aware of your daily routine and ways you can shift to a healthier work-life balance. Self-reflection and actively adjusting behaviors at this stage will lead to long-term practices that enable your desired balance9.
These tips can help you achieve a healthy work-life balance:
In some ways, writing this blog seemed counterintuitive to work-life balance as these questions flooded my head: How does this experience fit into my work? (It supplements my teaching and research interests, but it’s Saturday.) How does this fit into my life? (Again, it’s Saturday. I could be playing with my kids.)
But was writing this blog worth it? Yes. Writing provided me time to reflect on my work and my family.
I began self-reflection and prioritizing tasks when I was a post-doc, part-time lecturer, and new mom all at once. To-do lists, exercise, and focusing solely on family when I am with them help keep my balance in check. Now I turn that question to you: What does work-life balance mean to you?
Liv Anderson, PhD, MPH, RD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. In her teaching practices, she focuses on professional development for graduate students as well as nutritional and public health considerations throughout the lifecycle. Her research focuses on developing assessment techniques for student outcomes as well as developing and measuring innovative pedagogy.
Originally published at sph.umich.edu