Career Advice for Millennial Professionals
It’s a question asked too often. How do you stay away from work when you’re out of the office. Let me know when you figure that out. So-called experts talk about work life balance all the time – it’s the trendy article of the century, but many are now turning the tables calling fluff on the philosophy that this thing called balance even exists. And if it does, it’s on your terms. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for ‘working’.
But one thing is certain, more than half of the U.S. workforce is burnt out and that can be credited to not staying away from work enough. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 51% of workers are disengaged. Ouch.
And I’ve personally been there. I worked in television news for more than a decade – talk about an industry that never sleeps. The news is always on. This means I was always on. I had to be on; there was no freedom of choice when it came to the 12 hour workdays, breaking news, sleeping in cars, using the restroom when there was no restroom (use your imagination) and being on-call during weekends. Over the years, it became harder and harder to stay engaged, and my personal work satisfaction was at an all time low. Why? Because I never shut it off, and I never defined my boundaries. Who was really to blame? Them or me? Most likely both, but since all you can do control is yourself and your reaction – here are a few tips as you embark on your career.
Rule #1 Define what ‘staying away from work’ looks like to you. You and your Boss are probably on different pages.
The average Joe or Jill will have worked a total of 90,360 hours of his/her life.
And it may be even more in today’s digital age. A Nielson Company audience report found that Americans spend more than 10 hours a day consuming content. That doesn’t include work apparently.
This means bosses know their employees are always connected. This also means they may expect you to answer at all hours of the day and even weekends. It’s rare to feel as passionate about the mission of the company you’re working for as the CEO, Founder and top level management. That’s unless you have a phenomenal company culture. So while they don’t mind being hyper connected, make sure you have a conversation with your employer to share what your boundaries are. What do you consider balance?
Sometimes, it may be the company or management you work for. Before you skip happily into a new job, make sure you ask some serious questions about their policies, and what they do to make sure their employees don’t experience overwhelm. Also, study your industry. Let’s be real. Working in media can be chaotic and while you may daydream of long walks and lunch breaks, this is highly unlikely for an industry that is packed with high pressure deadlines. So do some investigating. Does the lifestyle you want matchup with the career path you’re choosing? If the answer is no, either reconsider your choice or manage your expectations.
When I found out there wasn’t maternity leave at the company I was working for years ago, I knew the employer wouldn’t be a good fit long term. It’s partly the reason why I decided to leave employment and start my own business. That has it’s own set of challenges, however nothing is more liberating than being able to write your own rules.
Rule #2 Encourage yourself to take frequent breaks during work hours
It’s not only important to stay away from work during ‘off hours’ – you will be more effective if you take ‘breaks’ during the day.
Encourage yourself to take walks, ask your boss if telecommuting is an option and take advantage of lunch breaks. It’s the law after all, right?
Back when I was an employee, I once had my boss call me while I was using the restroom. I answered, “Hello?”
He said, “Where are you?”
“I’m in the restroom!” I practically yelled. This is an example of how some bosses can micro-manage. Just because your employee isn’t at his/her desk doesn’t mean he/she isn’t working. Long gone are the days that people should be required to sit at their desks for 8 hours. This is especially true for millennial workers. We cringe at the thought of having to sit at work all day, every day. With advancements in technology, it’s hard for us to understand why we can’t work from home or a coffee shop. The last thing we want is a boss breathing down our necks.
Rule #3 Shut off Sundays
Katy Perry and Arianna Huffington have started a new movement called ‘Shut off Sundays’
In short, hide your phone, computers, and anything with a screen – stash them away and actually invest in real life connections. One of the books that shifted my perspective on balance was Thrive, by Huffington. She has in many disrupted the way corporations treat their employees, but there’s still so much to be done. Just look at Uber if you need an example of a company that has royally screwed itself as a result of their poor company culture.
Remind your boss that you’re human. You have challenges in life. A close family member of mine had unexpected emergency surgery one year, and while my employer was understanding and ‘sympathetic’ – there was no hesitation to taking my pay away because I had overused sick time for the year. These leadership tactics – managing through fear and scarcity are beginning to become part of the past. And with the internet, it’s becoming easier and easier for employees to their grievances.
Staying away from work while you’re at the office is like anything else – a habit. Developing new healthy habits centered around ‘balance’ is the only way you’ll ever win this game. Most importantly, speak up. How can your boss know you need a little R&R if you don’t share your voice?
By Nineveh Madsen, Founder of HER Magazine: www.hermag.co