The degree of required work-life balance to feel productive, fulfilled and ‘balanced’ varies from individual-to-individual, culture-to-culture and situation-to-situation. Work-life balance doesn’t automatically mean less work … it means feeling the most productive, fulfilled and successful in meeting the individual demands of a person’s daily needs without feeling overworked, overstressed or exhausted.
Some people feel perfectly balanced in their lives by engaging in more work-related activities than others. They revel in working and feeling productive when the workload thickens, and they’re even savvy and agile enough to handle their personal needs and get recharged easily without having their W/L balance get out of whack. They’re just good prioritizers and managers of their personal time and needs. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for the distribution of adequate time for handling W/L objectives and pursuits … it’s purely a personal, individual balancing act.
Furthermore, culture has a bit to play in the scheme of things. Many countries have relatively liberal time-off policies for vacation/holiday when compared to others, and any interruption or reduction in such time provided to individuals may cause a psychological W/L imbalance that precludes an actual one. Presuming and anticipating that one will lack the adequate time to address their personal needs in itself will trigger the stress that leads to imbalance.
Whether a person is truly functioning under satisfactory W/L balance can be colored by one’s perception. Talk of subtracting some vacation or holiday time, or adding some unanticipated work hours to an employee’s schedule -- or to your own schedule -- for some, causes the inner clock and task prioritizing mechanism to begin to short-circuit, even before the time consumption and in balancing takes root … while others are wired to take it in stride and adjust without a problem, concern or complaint. Believe it or not, there are even some that are programmed to take on the extra demand for work as a welcomed challenge, such that they’ll relatively easily go with the flow and turn the development into a source of motivation. They simply expect W/L upsets as a portion and reality of their W/L game plan.
Included in those rare birds are many of the often high-strung, yet highly successful titans of business and industry who may actually hunger and thrive with challenges to the routine of their W/L programming. They feel more fulfilled the more they’re challenged, and are more willing to readily forego some of what others demand as the ‘Life’ portion of W/L balancing It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but is for some -- and who is one to judge what makes others tick and feel fulfilled? But for most of us, especially the younger generations, being married to the job first and foremost is taking a back seat to being able to juggle a newer life paradigm where 9-to-5-ing it, as the prime time to concentrate on work, is no longer the solitary, common and given work-day and work-way model.
Portable, flexible E-gadgetry in our possession, in an increasingly fast-paced, global society, has led us into wild and unpredictable work patterns that can force our hands and eat into any time of our day, night or on weekends, as the required or ideal time to tend to the ‘work’ portion of the W/L balance equation…thus re-balancing to gain their life’s proper balancing in the first place.
Which brings us to what to do, or how to handle W/L balance while on vacation. Part of the answer is to again, first acknowledge that everyone takes to working in general, and working non-traditional hours (what in the past would have perhaps been considered as interruptions during off-hours to many) in particular, differently. Different strokes for different folks, be it while in full, regular, year-round mode; or even during vacation/holiday.
That said, the presumption is that vacation/holidays are a time for refreshing, recharging and renewal -- and that the less time spent on the regular ‘work’ portion of the W/L balance equation, the better. It then becomes a question of expectation/standards, planning and contingency. ‘When, for what, and how’ you should you be interrupted during your vacation becomes the key question to ponder, and can only be answered by you … your expectations and standards for such interruptions … and how you will deal and cope with such possibilities. And if you’re an employee of someone else, being clear ahead of time and in sync with your employer or manager on that ‘when, what and how’ question that you have considered is also a critical factor.
Some people and cultures take the approach that: ‘I work my rear-end off during work year-round … and thus my standard is that I need to be fully out-of-pocket, when I’m recharging during my vacation -- please, no interruptions from anyone unless it is a life-threatening emergency’, That’s their standard -- and in some cultures and business-cultures, that’s the norm that managers readily respect because they too ascribe to the same standards for when they’re on vacation. Some companies even insist that vacationing employees must not work while on vacation as a way to satisfy and respect W/L balance requirements; shoot for a better chance that the employee is truly refreshing and recharging; and to improve the chances that their W/L balance needs once they go on vacation will be respected.
But for many, the pace and demands of the work-world is changing, or has changed dramatically already -- and that steady, non-interruptive standard has become increasingly difficult to maintain steadfastly. And when that is the case, just like regular work-day and work-life balance planning takes some careful plotting, so does vacation W/L balance require some thoughtful considerations, defining and working things out with the employers, clients, friends and family, so that everyone is clear and knows one’s standards and expectations for honoring the W/L needs of the vacationer.
Work/Life balance doesn’t work, during vacations or otherwise, unless there are clear parameters plus a commitment to honor those standards by individuals and their employers. No establishing of those parameters equals no balance. Again, it differs from person-to-person, culture-to-culture, and situation to situation. Planning and transparent, open communication of the standards are the keys.