Work-Life Balance: Can you really have it all?

By Emily Graffius

Work-life balance is a buzzword for working professionals everywhere. Whether you’re single or not. Parent or not. Commuting or not. We need it. We want more of it.

A recent Gallup poll found that “greater work-life balance and better personal well-being” are important to employees and only topped by having the “ability to do what they do best.”

It's normal to feel the need to shut off work to be present with family and friends. It's normal not to want to feel pressure to respond to your boss’s 10 p.m. text or email when it can wait until the morning.

“A healthy work-life balance means having the opportunity to support your family both physically and emotionally, while progressing your professional career. It’s knowing when to unplug and when to engage both in your personal and professional life,” says Yolonda Hayslett, Accounting Manager at the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce.  

The Chattanooga Chamber values a healthy work-life balance for employees and Hayslett is thankful for the flexibility.

“I’m able to take time off to attend my son’s field trip or leave early to see a school performance. It’s one of the many benefits of working at the Chamber,” Hayslett says. 

"Take care of yourself: When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off adrenaline for too long, your performance suffers. Your decisions suffer. Your company suffers. Love those close to you: Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationships is.” - Ev Williams, co-founder of Medium and Twitter

There's something to be said for work-life balance and working toward that ideal balance of keeping work at work and your personal life at home. Allison Darras, Manager of Development for the MidSouth Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association and President of the North Hamilton County Council, says that when she became a parent she had to make the effort to turn off work and shift to being a mom.

“I have an only child and I have one chance at being a parent. At this time my child is my priority and I have been lucky enough to work for organizations that respect that,” Darras says.

Darras feels that having a family has made her a better professional who stays more on task during the work day because she doesn’t take any time for granted. After work, she gets to switch gears to her parent role. 

“I feel like technology has made it better to be a working parent. I can get emails and phone calls no matter where I am - at home, at a school program or in my office,” Darras says. “I will check email when I am not at work, but I usually will read emails and then mark them as unread so I can respond to them when I am back at work the next day or after the weekend. Also if I am not at work I typically do not answer work calls. If it is important they will leave me a voicemail and I can respond when I have time.”

Joel Henderson is the Communications Director of the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce. His Chamber creates a family supportive atmosphere, one of the many reasons he accepted his current position.

“A few of the many reasons I was drawn to work at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce is their positive presence, vision and impact on our growing community and focus on family and work-life balance. The Chamber team understands and values the importance of family,” Henderson says. 

Even if you don't have children, you still need time with the important people in your circle. Self-care is necessary, and can be as simple as going home to unwind, to the gym or to a game.

“At work and at home, I remind myself to take a pause before responding to anything. This can be a positive step toward your best work-life balance by making sure you not only achieve, but also reflect the joy of the job, and the joy of life, daily,” Henderson says. “Take time to celebrate achievements and those who were a part of shared success.”

“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls - family, health, friends and integrity - are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” - Gary Keller, American entrepreneur and best-selling author

What if you don’t have that ideal boss who encourages you to enjoy personal time as a priority after work and put your cell phone on silent? What if your boss makes time for golf games or her daughter’s track meet, yet you’re still working late and miss your friend’s birthday party or son’s award ceremony?

If you're feeling stuck, know that self-care is not selfish. Look at your life and what you prioritize for you. Setting aside personal time where you aren't connected to work can make you a better employee. Find your balance in creative ways. 

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” - Dolly Parton