Can There Be a Work/Life Balance in the US?
Life seems to move faster and faster as the years go by. Writing about work and life balance is nothing new. Whole websites are devoted to the topic, and daily someone posts on my social media feed an article about balancing life. But why is it that we are seemingly obsessed with finding balance and yet our lives are arguably more out of balance than ever? When did we get so out of balance?
The Lost Art of Human Interaction
Being a child born in the early 80’s I am part of a unique generation of people. A generation that I can only compare with those who were born during the advent of electricity. My generation was the last to experience life without an online lifestyle until we were into our college years. The Facebook, remember when it was called that, was first introduced to my college in 2004 at the tail end of my education.
Today social media is no longer a novelty like electricity once was, but a commonplace in our society. Our smartphones can do everything, and our life is set up to be as carefree as possible, but yet it’s not. Instead, these networks and conveniences that are meant to connect us all actually in many ways are disconnecting us.
It is so much easier to pop out and email or text these days instead of a phone call. When was the last time you wrote an actual letter? Can you go a full day without interacting with someone on a significant level? In our modern life, we are losing the personal connections that help keep us balanced.
Work vs. Personal Time
Remember the days when you use to be able to go to work, work, and then come home and relax. Sadly, that was never an option for my generation. We are the connected ones; work emails ping in at all hours. At a former job, I was behind the mark if I received an email at 11:00 pm and hadn’t answered it by 7:00 am. Where is the balance in that?
Many are conditioned to feel guilty about taking their time off. According to a Market Watch article published in September, only half of American’s take their full allotted time off each year. According to the report, 61% of Americans (if they do take the vacation time) still work during their vacations. If we feel like we need to work during a vacation, how is that balanced?
Maybe we should look to our brothers and sisters in Europe and other developed countries for some guidance on this fact, workers in the European Union are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days a year — and 25 or even 30 days a year in some European countries. They can take the vacation without guilt and without the fear of missing out.
How to Fix it All
To say I have an answer to the work/life balance would be a funny joke. I have extreme swings in my job and will put work above all, which had led to problems in my personal life in the past. The only thing I can say which has worked for me is, technology detoxing.
I set limits on my day for how much social media interaction I can have, often I fail but it’s still a goal. Around 7 pm, I am off Facebook and Social Media for the night. I might watch a movie or two, but the emails and social shares can wait until the morning, or around 7 am.
Once a year I try to get away and have at least a 4-5-day stint without any internet and social media. This has become my escape time, the time I can think about the world, free from distraction. If I can’t take that much time off, sometimes a weekend we will make internet free, these weekends we leave the WiFi off and put away our phones.
While I certainly do not have the answers I often ponder why in the world with so many conveniences why we now lead such unbalanced lives. For now, I continue to strive in the process of figuring out that answer.