Roanoke, Va – Studies show Americans are working more hours and days a week, while sleeping less and cutting downtime at home. It’s a situation you are probably all too familiar with, but you’re not alone.
There’s a fine line between the daily grind and a major work-life imbalance.
But unfortunately, as Carilion Clinic's Dr. Robert Trestman explains, that line comes in all shades of gray.
“Work life balance is an elusive goal for so many of us,” Trestman said.
Trestman is the chair of psychiatry at Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. He is very familiar with the struggles people here in Southwest Virginia face every day when it comes to balancing work and life.
You don’t get enough sleep at night.
Are you working more than you are sleeping? Are work or home demands keeping you up at night? Maybe you are just too tired to sleep. It’s not healthy.
Why it matters: Studies have proven people who get enough sleep at night are healthier and are at a lower risk of developing serious health problems like high blood pressure and obesity. Trestman said when you get enough sleep there is less risk of having anxiety and depression. When you are overworked, you start turning to things to help you cope. “You start smoking, you drink more coffee, you eat junk food because of the immediate release of sugar,” Trestman said. “None of which is healthy, but has become necessary if you feel you need to work 16-18 hours of work a day just to survive.
You are constantly monitoring work-related emails, texts or social media posts outside of work.
Why it matters: Although you may not be physically in the office, it’s important to be mentally present when attempting to enjoy your personal life. Having time to fully physically, mentally and emotionally dedicate to your personal life is crucial to overall well-being. Trestman said it’s important to set boundaries with work. He said it’s important to communicate with your employer or with your coworkers that during certain hours, you will be out of reach.
“With social media, our smartphones and pagers, so many of us are on all the time. It’s not healthy,” said Trestman.
A work-life balance study conducted by RescueTime, a company that provides technology that tracks and helps individuals manage their work-life time found that on average, workers take more than a quarter of their work home with them.
You aren’t using the majority of your vacation time or personal leave.
Leaving vacation hours on the table? Do you feel like you can never take a sick day, even when you know you should stay home.
Why it matters: While not all jobs provide vacation hours, it’s important to take advantage of those that do. Those are hours you have earned with your employer and are voluntarily giving up. Workers in the United States left a record number of vacation days on the table last year, equating to billions of dollars in lost benefits, according to research from the U.S. Travel Association, Oxford Economics and Ipsos.
A total of 768 million days went unused in 2018, a 9% increase from 2017. Of those, 236 million were completely forfeited, which comes out to $65.5 billion in lost benefits. Fifty-five percent of workers said they did not use all of their vacation days. If American workers used their time off to travel, the study says, the economic opportunity amounts to $151.5 billion in additional travel spending and would create 2 million American jobs.
“There is such a pressure on so many to be productive, to meet standards, to meet production. We end up feeling, ‘well I can’t take this time because I’ll fall behind.’” That’s not healthy,” Trestman said. He said it’s important to have a discussion with your employer about the importance of downtime in order to be your most productive self when you are at work. “So you can rejuvenate, regenerate and really be here,” explained Trestman.
You feel burned out.
Burnout is a real thing. In today’s workplace culture burnout has become commonplace. It’s so common, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed it an official medical diagnosis.
Why it matters: According to WHO, burnout is a state of chronic stress that can lead to fatigue, inability to be successful at work and even anxiety and depression. With burnout, irritability is at an all-time high and even your friends in the office are getting on your nerves. Impatience is a symptom of the underlying stress and anxiety associated with burnout. Not only is this an unhealthy state to be living in, it also is makes you less productive at work and less available at home.
You are living in “crisis-mode,” only working to make ends meet.
Working more than you can handle, possibly more than one job while juggling kids and a home life; it’s unhealthy. While the hours may be needed to make ends meet, you aren’t planning for the future.
Why it matters: Trestman said that individuals who are forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet should plan to save as much money as possible to continue their education, or work toward other opportunities that can offer them a job that provides enough.
“It’s about investing in yourself,” Trestman said. “Have a discussion with your employer about the company investing in you, too.” He suggests meeting with your employer to talk about receiving training or moving up to a better paying position that would prevent you from having to take on a second job.
“It’s really important not to think that the rest of your life is going to be working two jobs non-stop with no meaningful time for yourself or your family. We all need to develop opportunities to develop balance. Frankly it’s not easy, but it’s important,” said Trestman. “In each person I have worked with over the years we have found ways to make that happen. Not overnight, but incrementally."
Trestman said it’s important to not to live in crisis-mode, but to plan long term.
“We like to believe in superhero’s, but we’re not. We have our limits. Some of us incrementally deteriorate. Some of us will go until we crash. But there are limits to each and everyone of us,” said Trestman.