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A work-life balance resolution for the New Year


January 07, 2015

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    It's been a few years since I made any real New Year's resolutions.
    That's not because I don't believe in setting goals, or because I've been unsuccessful in following through on resolutions in the past (although that has happened a time or two).
     Rather, I find that goal-setting for me is an ongoing process. I'm always evaluating what I'm doing, trying to figure out what I could do better and then attempting to make changes to improve myself.
     The fact that I need to do this all the time is indicative, perhaps, of limited success in these efforts. But at least I'm trying!
     The latest goal I've decided to work on is one that may sound strange, but it's a big deal for me. A few weeks ago, I decided that I need to do a better job of giving myself a break.
     I spend a lot of time and mental energy feeling like I'm coming up short and not meeting people's expectations at work or at home. As you can imagine, that's not a pleasant way to feel, and my logical self knows that I'm doing a better job than my emotional self tells me I am.
     So, I've decided to pay attention to my logical self and spend more time accepting that I often succeed in being a good manager, co-worker, employee, husband, father, son, brother, uncle, in-law, neighbor and friend. I hope this will make me less stressed and more happy, and that's a goal worth achieving.
     (As a corollary goal, perhaps I should give my wife a break, too. She often asks me to do so. Hmmm. I'll have to ponder that.)
     Since I'm thinking about this at the turn of the calendar to 2015, I guess it could be considered a work-life balance resolution for the new year. However, it's not the kind of work-life resolution other Americans are making, according to a survey from finance and accounting staffing company Accounting Principals.
     The company's survey on "The True Cost of Working" shows that few people are successful in achieving their New Year's resolutions, but changes in how they approach their jobs might help.
     The November telephone survey of a representative sample of 497 working American adults found that many people want to improve their focus on personal and family time in 2015. For example, 48 percent of those surveyed said they want to leave work on time this year, while 44 percent wish to regularly take a lunch break. Another 44 percent hope to use all of their vacation time.
     I understand these desires; they're what led me to change jobs a few years ago. Whereas I almost never left work at a decent hour in the past, I now leave the office when I plan to almost every day. My lunch breaks don't always come when I expect them to, and I sometimes still dine at my desk, but I try to carve out at least 30 minutes to eat and recharge during each workday.
     As for vacation time, well, that's never been a problem for me. I always seem to use it almost as quickly as I earn it, but I believe that's a good thing. It's definitely better than losing vacation days because you've maxed out on the number of hours you can bank, as has happened to several people I know.
     Taking vacation days is important to my efforts to deal with stress, and such stress is taking a toll on workers and their families, according to the Accounting Principals survey. According to its results, 40 percent of respondents said they took their work stress out on their spouse, while 11 percent said they took it out on their children and 11 percent said it affected other family members.
     Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said work stress had also led to problems with their emotional or physical health and personal life, according to the Accounting Principals press release. Forty-one percent of respondents said they didn't get enough sleep and 35 percent said they ate poorly due to stress.
     Work stress also increases financial burdens for some people, the Accounting Principals press release said, with 85 percent of survey respondents saying they spend money as a way to de-stress from work. Within that group, 49 percent said they reduce stress by spending money on dining, while 24 percent spend it on "happy hour" and 22 percent use their money on trips or vacations.
     I think spending money on a nice night out at a restaurant or on a vacation is a good use of resources to reduce work stress, as long as the expenditures are reasonable. When a person spends beyond his means to release stress, however, it only exacerbates the problem.
     On a related note, the Accounting Principals survey found that 30 percent of working Americans have made a New Year's resolution to spend less on work-related expenses this year. Forty-three percent of respondents said they spent an average of $26-$50 on transportation each week, and 34 percent indicated that they spent an average of $21-$40 each week for lunch.
     I've found that working from home now and then and taking a sack lunch to work almost every day helps me in these areas. In the survey, 45 percent of respondents said taking a lunch to work was one of their New Year's resolutions.
     Finally, the Accounting Principals survey showed that 63 percent of respondents admitted to missing one or more personal moments, like birthday parties or children's activities, because of work. This problem was worse for younger workers, as 72 percent of those ages 18-34 and 70 percent of those ages 35-44 said they missed personal moments due to work last year.
     As I've written before, I'm grateful to work for a boss who allows me the flexibility to attend family events and to work with a team that is patient with me when I need to leave early to attend a concert or game. I try to allow them the same flexibility, and I hope that makes all of our lives better and more balanced.
     Whether or not you're making resolutions for 2015, I hope you will find ways to improve your work-life balance. And while you're at it, you should try giving yourself — and maybe even your spouse — a break now and then. That might make this a better year for everyone.

    Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.


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