In a world where smartphones have become an extra appendage and answering after-hour work emails has become the new norm, finding work-life balance can feel like an impossibility. This is especially true for younger Millennials who are just starting their careers and typically have less power to set their day-to-day work schedules.
Millennials crave greater balance: for most of this generation, it’s the number one factor when choosing a new job, according to a recent Deloitte study. As a fellow young professional, I also know that job search priorities don’t always equate with on-the-job realities.
Today, I’m fortunate to work for a company where work-life balance is not only prioritized but also considered instrumental to an employee’s success. At previous companies, however, I wasn’t so lucky– I know first hard how hard it can be to balance the demands of work and personal life. These tips helped me find my balance early in my career:
1. Change your commute
I come into the office early and leave early, which allows me to avoid rush hour traffic. If I leave for work at 7:30am instead of 8:30am, my commute is 10 minutes instead of 30 minutes. A few minutes here and there adds up – by the end of the week I’ve saved over three hours for myself! That’s time I can use to take a yoga class, buy groceries, or meet up with friends. As an added bonus, by arriving early I have a few minutes of quiet to tackle bigger projects before the inevitable onslaught of email interruptions begin. Of course, not everyone has the flexibility in their work schedule to do this, but if you can manage it I highly recommend it.
2. Optimize your lunch break
Are you making the most of your lunch break? In our office, many people use their lunch break to go to exercise. You might think you’re too busy to take an hour in the middle of your day to hit the gym, but I find that after a quick workout I’m energized and focused. I actually get more done in the afternoon than I would if I had stayed at my desk. Even if you don’t use the time to work out, simply taking a mental break from your work – and disconnecting from email – can really boost your productivity.
3. Take time to plan
The best way to free up time for your personal life is to finish your work as quickly and efficiently as possible. I set aside a few minutes each Sunday to evaluate my schedule and upcoming deadlines. I decide what my top priorities will be for the week ahead and what I need to work on when. This also helps prevent me from being distracted by tasks that seem urgent in the moment but aren’t actually critical in the long run. And I don’t lose time between each task deciding what to do next. If you can’t take time out Sunday, even taking a few moments at the beginning of each work day to plan really helps.
4. Do your research.
Company culture is one of the most important determinants for work-life balance. Most young professionals are understandably uncomfortable asking about work-life balance in a job interview for fear of appearing lazy or lacking work ethic. However, there are other ways to deduce a company’s attitude without directly asking. Do they offer flexible work arrangements like work-from-home days? Do they have a generous vacation policy that employees actually use? These are positive signs. Even something like a casual dress code can indicate that a company is less formal and rigid about office hours. You can also ask any former employees you know or check online employee reviews.
5. Don’t be afraid to relocate.
Making the move to a city with a lower cost of living and a higher priority on work-life balance can make a huge difference. I’m based in Denver, a city many people choose because of the abundant outdoor opportunities as well as the cultural benefits that come with a major city. On the whole, companies here tend to give employees greater flexibility for setting their schedules. Switching jobs and cities is a major life change, but you may find that doing so is ultimately the right personal and professional decision.
Increasingly, employers across the country are recognizing the need to prioritize work-life balance in order to attract top millennial talent. Companies are also realizing that employees are more creative and productive when they have the time to pursue their passions outside the office. Don’t be afraid to carve out some time for yourself and look for a company that shares these values.