I am 21 years old. Apparently, that makes me a Millennial. According to many articles, #millennialme wants a healthy work-life balance, also known as WLB. I don’t disagree with those articles. I also know that WLB is hard to achieve, because the Internet keeps telling me so.
A lot of these articles talk about WLB in a way that says: you work too much; you need to work less; schedule time for your family, friends, so on and so on. 15 Tips to Achieve WLB! Or something of the sort. These articles always say prioritize x over y and make lists of priorities and such. I don’t think that’s necessary, considering it seems to be human nature to inherently apply priorities to things that come our way. We already know what we think is important.
I think that these articles will never help in achieving WLB. I find these articles so disappointing when they focus merely on how work is essentially ripping your social life away. Reading them is disheartening, and the comment section quickly becomes a sort of pity party that everyone can relate to—I do work too much! I don’t have enough time for fun!
But how do we get past mutual commiseration, and begin to truly achieve what we all want?
When someone schedules time for work and life, it may look something like 9-5 on weekdays are for work and the rest of the time is for life. I find that the problem with this is that people all work differently, and they create more stress looking at their time like this. They’re the people that are stressed at dinner because of the work they did that day or will do the next day. They’re the people worried about life while they’re meeting clients. We’ve only one chance to do each day right—and there is not a single benefit to stressing ourselves even more than we do.
At my first internship, I entered a stressful hospitality setting, and made it more stressful for myself. I worked 40 hours a week, then ‘worked’ at least another dozen hours in my mind- constantly seeing flaws in our service and devising ways to improve the flow. I just couldn’t leave work at work. By the end of that short internship, I was completely burnt out.
So, how could I personally find WLB, and possibly—how can you find WLB?
To me, WLB is about having the audacity to be flexible and the ability to let go. It’s all fueled by impeccable teamwork. Okay, these are all great buzzwords…but how can you actually make these things happen?
The audacity to be flexible is being bold enough to say that something is happening in life and it matters to me, so work will have to wait or just not happen right now. It’s also being bold enough to say that something is happening in work and it matters to me, so life will have to wait a moment or just not happen right now.
But these situations don’t mean that we’re letting things fall by the wayside, nor are we failing at completing whatever responsibilities we feel we have as an employee or a friend/family member.
Teamwork comes in during those times of boldness. It’s up to a properly functioning team to say you have that thing to do and we’re here to step up to the plate. These teams aren’t just work based either; you also have your life team—the best friends, family, and other personal acquaintances who will step up.
Letting go via delegation is then the next step: your teams can’t handle things if you won’t let them. So, when you leave work because life happened, delegate your work out and rely on your team to get things done. You do the same when life happens to them, right? Or when work clashes with life, delegate things to your life team so you can handle work things because you do the same for them.
My second internship was at a bread company, I was pulling 45-50 hour weeks my first two months, working late and through lunches. At the end of a particularly long week, my manager told me “Bread doesn’t collapse overnight.” Throughout that internship, my teammates stepped up to help me, and my manager pushed me to learn how to let things go. She pushed me towards my ideal WLB.
The best part is that your employer, who benefits from you being at your unstressed best, can help you achieve WLB.
Your employer is who creates your work team, and can help foster teamwork and collaboration. They hired you, and you’re awesome—so they probably hire other awesome people too.
Your workplace can also grant more autonomy to the employees—allow for emergency days, mental health days, and the like. There is nothing to lose on their side if you’re at your best.
When an employer values its employees and collaboration, it’s easier to help each person achieve that WLB mindset and flexibility. Value is created for the employee, and in turn, the employer—when we succeed, everyone succeeds.
At my current internship, the workday starts at 9…ish. I don’t worry about chasing down the train or the bus getting caught in traffic. It’s a freeing feeling. I know that sick days are unlimited—even as an intern, I have access to that perk—for all employees; sick days don’t affect pay or paid time off. We hold events in the office where we get to drink, eat, play with toys, and just have fun. So often, I know that work bleeds into life, and life bleeds into work. In this office, the joys of life are welcome at work. WLB abounds.
Someday I will achieve my ideal WLB in a full time position, and I believe you can too.
Social Media Community Manager Intern
Collector of fountain pens. Master of the art of the handshake. Believes business can do good, and intends to market to better the world.
Copywriting and concert fanatic. Unrepentant seltzer water and sushi addict. Was actually the kid who brought stray animals home.