When you hear “work-life balance”, what do you think?
I think sanity, necessity and some awesome companies who promote it.
If you work for a modern company that promotes a proper work-life balance, then you’re one of the lucky ones. From vacation time to flexible hours, there are plenty of ways for organizations to allow employees the time they need to maintain a balanced life. Then, there are the Google-esque startups that take this concept to the extreme with nap pods, free snack bars, in-office yoga classes and water slides instead of stairs. Okay, maybe not water slides…but they have a lot of cool stuff in their offices.
Why? Because they don’t want their employees to go bat-shit crazy in their cubicles.
Cube life sucks, and it is NOT normal for humans to sit all day long, let alone stare at a computer while sitting in stiff fabrics that are also known as business casual wear.
What many great employers realize is that although we, as office monkeys, are necessary in today’s world, we function much better in our jobs when we can set aside time with our families, volunteer in the community and schedule necessary appointments, like doctor’s visits and oil changes. We also have to take a few short, meaningful breaks throughout our day to give our minds and bodies a break.
I’m lucky enough to work from home now, but I was still sitting in an infamous cubicle just over a year ago, and it was hard. I liked my job and the people I worked with, but those powder blue, bulletin board walls can really take a toll on your eyes and your morale. It was hard not to look out the window (thank god I even had a window) and dream about running around in the parking lot while burning my policy-mandated nude pantyhose at the stake. (Yes, some companies still require women to wear NUDE pantyhose in 2015. Try to control yourselves, boys.)
You know how I got through each day? By mixing long periods of focused, hard work with short periods of mental meltdowns. I don’t mean meltdowns in the sense that I was having mental breakdowns and freaking out all the time (that mostly faded after the first couple months of realizing I had to keep working in an office FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.) What I mean is I gave my brain, my nerves and my body a moment here and there to relax, unwind and regroup.
It doesn’t take long to refocus during a short break if you use your time wisely. Set an alarm on your phone or computer to take a two-minute break every hour or so (or as often as you can), and try some of these ways to unwind without alerting HR:
- Stand up and stretch it out. Or stay seated and stretch it out with these desk exercises from WebMD.
- Refill your water bottle. Drinking water all day keeps you energized, hydrated and stops you from snacking as much. Plus, you get to take a walk to the fountain.
- Take a bathroom break. After all that water, you’re gonna need it. While you’re there, say hi to someone you pass by and enjoy that little moment of socialization. You might also want to quickly touch up your hair, clothes or face if you’re anything like me because I tend to lean all over my hands when I’m working, and my appearance really takes a toll. Not exactly a professional look.
- Hit up the coffeemaker. Duh.
- Organize your desk. Files tend to go flying when you’re in the zone, and a cluttered desk can cause unnecessary stress. Plus, you don’t want to become known as the office slob.
- Use your break times wisely. Depending on the length of your lunch break and the rules at your office, you may be able to run out and do some quick errands during your free time. This can really alleviate some stress since you’ll have one less thing to do when you get home. You can maximize this time by munching on your lunch while you work before your break time, so you don’t have to waste time eating when you’re free to leave. (Don’t try that method if you aren’t supposed to have snacks on the job or if you can’t actually eat and work at the same time.)
- Update your to-do list. Knowing what you’ve already accomplished and what you have left to do helps organize your mind and focus on the task at hand. Plus, it feels fabulous to cross something off that list.
- Hit up the coffeemaker. Again.
- Close your eyes and breath through your nose. Not so loudly as to become known as the loud breather of the office because that’s worse than the office slob, but just enough to relax and count to 10. It’s probably best to chill out before you freak out.
- Spend a moment day dreaming about what you get to do after work. Whether that’s working out, cooking a delicious meal, hitting up happy hour with friends or picking up the kids from school, it’s probably better than sitting around in a pants suit. A little motivation can go a long way.
I would NOT suggest checking your phone or any fun websites to unwind (even this one…that’s how much I care about your job security). Although that’s one way most of us relax when we’re not in the office, it really annoys your boss, and you can be sure she’s taking notice.
I think it’s safe to say even the most conservative employers would be more likely to promote a healthy work-life balance if it included coffee and deep breathing rather than Facebook and Instagram. Yes, cube life sucks, but you can make the most of it if you learn the limits of your office culture and stick within those limits. Then, once you’re free, you can spend your evenings running, jumping, Instagramming and checking your hellolatte subscription email for the latest posts.
You have subscribed by now, haven’t you?? (If not, hang your head in shame, then stretch it out and enter your email at the top of this page. I don’t want anyone billing me for their next appointment with the chiropractor.)