It’s the second month in a row you’ve consistently worked way past your regular hours. You always feel behind and the work never seems to stop. Is there something wrong with your work habits, or is your company’s fault?
Answer these nine questions to find out — and learn what to do whether it’s your problem or the company’s.
Having a poor work-life balance does not mean you’re less of an employee or person. It just means you might need to reassess your work habits, environment and personal tendencies. Start by considering your productivity in a given day. How many hours are you not just working, but actually getting real work done? When you’re not getting work done — and you’re not in a meeting or answering a work communication, why is that?
You might be taking social media breaks, chatting with a friend or just zoning out. It’s not that breaks aren’t an important part of a healthy workday; it’s that breaks should refresh and recharge you, not drain your focus. The first step is re-embracing your focus so you can get work done more efficiently, smarter and faster. Learn what time of day is most productive for you, and schedule your hard work around that time. If you’re slow to start your day, then start with easier administrative tasks.
Then, think about the outside distractors and what you can do to limit them. Can you put your phone on Do Not Disturb and just cancel out the noise from non-work-related texts? Can you set aside time to check social media during your lunch break?
Once you’ve tackled your productivity, then move to your boundaries. Be clear and specific when setting them with your team and follow through by marking your availability publicly on your calendar or communication apps. Once you make a boundary, keep it — even if it feels scary or uncomfortable. If you respect your boundaries, hopefully your team will follow.
Company culture can easily lead to poor work-life balance if the expectation is for everyone to be “on” all of the time. This can look like constant communication after hours, meetings during non-work hours and consistently urgent work deadlines (even when the project isn’t urgent).
It can also look like a lack of empathy or checking-in. If your manager and teammates never bring up your workload and bandwidth or brush it off when you do, they may not care about your work-life balance. It’s another red flag if they don’t mention their outside lives (no need to get personal, but if they’re too concerned with work, it may be an issue) or ever take a vacation, the issue may stem from the top line.
If your company culture is killing your work-life balance, it’s time to speak up and take action. Talk directly and specifically with your manager about your concerns and brainstorm actionable methods and ways that would help you gain more of that balance. For example, discuss changing deadlines, meeting cadence or even a no-response expectation after a certain hour. If nothing changes after the meeting, it may be time to find a better culture for your needs. You and your mental health deserve it.
The bottom line is, if your work-life balance is struggling, it’s your company’s problem — even if you’re struggling with your productivity and communicating your boundaries. Your company should care about this balance because it affects you as both an employee and a person; a better work-life balance means a more productive, energized worker, and a more fulfilled, happy person. Whether you need to reassess your own habits or your company’s, speaking up and taking action to gain a good work-life balance is crucial to your career success.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Zoe Kaplan is a Staff Writer & Content Strategist at Fairygodboss.