What does balance mean to you?
“Public relations executive” was ranked No. 8 on the list of the top 10 most stressful jobs in 2019. It’s preceded by newspaper reporter, event coordinator, broadcaster, airline pilot and a few emergency services positions.
It might be surprising to some, but when you look at the nature of our work, I can see how it can be stress-inducing at times. Our work is digital-heavy and deadline-driven. We’re always connected to technology. We spend much of our time interacting with the public and we live racing to meet our own deadlines, along with those of the media. Though demanding, we stay in the profession because, well, we love it.
We enjoy helping others in whatever way we can. We are available for our clients when they need us, and we shift our schedules to fit their needs. At Sabo PR, we like to say “our clients should always feel like we are sitting around and waiting just to hear from them – even if the rest of our world has gone up in flames.” When things are important and they have to get done outside of hours, we’re on it. We thrive under pressure and feel accomplished at the end of every day.
However, I do think that people like us, who work in fast-paced environments and whose passion for our work can spill over into other aspects of our lives, should find ways to slow down when we can. There can be great benefits to our productivity, mental health and physical well-being when we encourage each other to unplug a little and take part in non-work-related activities.
Now is an apt time to be making a conscious effort to encourage healthy work/life balance. During the fall and winter months in Michigan, our days are getting shorter. Seasonal affective disorder is very real and can start to set in for some people. Why don’t we try to enjoy as much of the sunlight and good weather (when we have it) when our usual workday is done? Here are some ways I think we can work toward that:
Prioritize and Focus
When are you the most productive? Is it when you first wake? After meals? Or perhaps after some light exercise? If you have a lot on your plate, try to align your most concentration-heavy tasks with when you do your best work. If you can get those major tasks out of the way during your typical work schedule, you won’t be procrastinating and finding yourself catching up on work after hours.
Help yourself stay on task and make the most out of your workday by blocking any distractions. Consider muting your email notifications or using an app blocker. Exit out of documents, webpages or apps that aren’t for the task at hand.
Consider Scheduling Out Communications
Emailing tends to be the least interruptive way to communicate, compared to calling or texting after hours. However, there are some nice scheduling features most email service providers have these days that allow you to shift your work time to wherever and whenever is most convenient for you and your recipients.
Choosing the “send later” or “delay send” option can be a courteous gesture if you’re working late and the email subject matter is not something pressing. You can use it you’ve got something on your mind that you want to get out in an email right when you’re thinking of it, but it doesn’t require immediate attention. I personally like using this feature because it gives me another chance to proofread my emails. I make sure I didn’t forget an attachment or add the wrong recipient before they go into cyberspace.
If you think there’s value in a recipient potentially seeing an email right away, don’t stress about whether to delay it. Go ahead and send it then. If there’s a crisis, please never hesitate to call.
Try setting some realistic personal goals to maximize your “home life” and block out time for your activities like you would for a meeting.
If your goals require you to step away from your phone, there are some tools that can help. You can momentarily set your phone to “Do Not Disturb.” You can activate this feature and still be accessible for urgent matters by programming exceptions, such as:
- allow repeat callers within a 15-minute period or
- allow messages from starred contacts only.
If that option seems a little scary, find an accountability buddy who can watch your phone for you while you’re enjoying time away from digital distractions. They can let you know if a call needs to be taken or a text needs to be responded to right away.
You might have read that America has a vacation problem. The statistics are pretty dismal. According to a recent poll, more than one in 10 Americans say they plan to take a quarter or less of their vacation days this year and 4% aren’t planning to take any vacation time at all, even though their employers offer it.
It’s unfortunate because research shows that not taking a healthy break from work can result in an array of negative mental and physical effects. Those effects can impact your life outside of work as well. One of the many reasons why someone might choose not to take a vacation is because they feel guilty.
If a team member takes a vacation day, I encourage you to go out of your way to let your coworkers know how great it is that they’re taking time for themselves. Whether it is to relax, recharge or go on an adventure, let them know the rest of the team will keep the wheels moving while they’re away.
We function at our best when we lead balanced lives. Whatever “balance” means to you, strive for it. Bonus points if we can help lower each the stress levels of others along the way.