To Understanding the New Work-Life Balance
What do you think of when you hear the phrase work-life balance? Like most, you probably think of having a job that doesn't include late nights, weekends or emails on your off-time from a overbearing micromanager. While that's definitely a part of the puzzle that is work-life balance, millennials need to continue thinking beyond the ideas of yesteryear.
Society (although maybe not so much recently) is evolving, both big and small business is evolving, and the workforce is evolving. On nearly 75% of the job descriptions I see, employers list an assortment of benefits that appear to promote a healthy work-life balance. But at the end of the day, is a ping-pong table, a PlayStation or a set of beanbags going to affect you all that much? The short answer for many is likely yes — but there's more to it than these niceties given to us, one of the youngest generations in the workforce.
The impact of the ol' 9-5 on your 5-9
I am a firm believer in everyone having that (at least) one job that was brutal. Do me a favor really quick and just close your eyes — envision that company for a second — you know the one I'm talking about: with the soul-crusher of a boss, wacky hours, uninspiring work, conniving coworkers, or sharing an office space with the microwaving fish bandit. Remember your workspace, the walls, the sounds, even the smell. *waits* When you're back from that flashback, take a second and check in with your body and mind. How do you feel? Tight muscles, tension at the base of your neck, nauseated, or the heebie-jeebies? If that's how much a bad work environment can affect you by simply thinking about it, imagine the stress you were (or unfortunately are) under living it day in and day out.
When you're unhappy at work, it brings down your mood and adds a lackluster filter on every aspect of your life. I don't care how good at compartmentalizing you are, if you hate your 9-5, your 5-9, or whatever hours you're not at work, probably aren't the best either. Am I right?
So what's the cure? The new and improved work-life balance. While hours and management are definitely important factors, look beyond the tired perception of a healthy work-life balance.
In your next interview, ask yourself:
Am I passionate about the work?
Imagine yourself in this role. Are you passionate about the work you'll be doing, or is it just a paycheck? Are you making an impact on your team? Now zoom out — is your team collectively passionate about the work you're doing? Is your team making an impact on the greater organization? Zoom out again — is management passionate about the values of the company, providing you and your team the tools to thrive, and investing in your development? Zoom out one last time — is senior leadership passionate about the brand they lead? Are they driving the company forward with a strong vision and impactful mission?
Does this team appear to be dedicated and collaborative?
You want to be a part of a team that, in addition to being passionate, is dedicated. Luckily, these often go hand-in-hand — but when it comes to collaboration, the waters can get a little murky. During your interview, feel confident and comfortable to ask scenario-based questions about dedication to their craft and team collaboration. While not a requirement for every facet of your role, collaboration is often key in faster on-boarding and training, developing a deeper connection between staff and teams, and often improved and more creative strategies and solutions. (Based on my experience, at least.)
What's my potential commute look like?
Take it from someone who knows, your commute time is 1,000% a factor in your work-life balance algorithm. At my last company, I commuted 45 miles, each way — and in Bay Area traffic, it was at least an hour, to an hour and a half, each way. In the beginning, you convince yourself that you'll use the time to listen to podcasts, catch up on your audiobook collection or to decompress from a stressful day — and it may be true. For a period of time. But all that time, whether spent in a car, train, bus or UberPool, will wear. you. the. fuck. down. Regret, resentment and rage will follow.
Will I be able to leave work at the office?
I still struggle with leaving work at work. My work email is pushed to my personal cell phone, and much like Pavlov's dog, when that thing dings, I'm instantly all over it. While technically I don't need to be tethered to my inbox, I've adopted the ways of my teammates. Beyond the push notifications and night-owl managers, consider how much of the mental muck you bring home (or would be bringing home) at the end of the day. Does this environment seem to be in-line with your communication style? Does management seem receptive to new ideas? If you make a mistake, how will it be handled by your boss and team? If all that's coming home, you're not getting the time you need to rest and reboot. And that's not doing anyone a favor.
What's my stress level going to be, and what's my outlet?
Tying into the off-time and communication from the question above, what does stress in this role look like? Is it here and there throughout the day, once or twice a week or month, quarterly, or all encompassing? There is such a thing as a healthy amount of stress — seriously, it's good for your brain and your heart. It will likely also help motivate, challenge and push yourself forward in your career. But if this stress is beginning to affect your life, whether physical or mental (inside, or outside of the office) you need to ask yourself if it's worth it. What are you getting out of it?
Lastly, consider your outlet for this stress. Did you meet a potential work bff? Did you notice the Yoga room tucked off to the side of the lobby? Or is that ping-pong table actually more important than we initially thought?
If you ask yourself these questions, and feel good with the answers, I urge you to fight with everything you've got for that opportunity. While money is important, if your basic needs (and a few of your wants and desires) are met financially every month, it's even OK to take a pay cut to be a part of the right organization.
Now, go forth millennial, I believe in you!