Silhouette of person balancing with sunset background

Work-Life Balance in Technology

I’d recommend that you read my Burnout post before this, if you haven’t already. A lot of the content here will discuss Burnout. You can read that post below.

Work Burnout – Prevention and Treatment

We’re working more hours than ever before. How to handle, prevent, and help with Burnout. Its OK, to not be OK

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Seeing as my previous post about mental health, and it’s impact on career(s) was so well received, I decided to write another post on a slightly different topic. I’ve had colleagues, friends, and connections on LinkedIn contact me asking about my work-life balance, and how I manage to “do it so well”.

My Situation

First off, I honestly don’t think I have a great balance! It’s by no means a terrible though. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve experienced Burnout a couple of times. That was partly down to my poor W-L balance, it’s still very much a work in progress. However, I’ve definitely improved things over the last couple of years.

I used to spend a lot of time working, when I’m not in the office – often upwards of 10 hours a week. You’d often find me with my phone in hand, on Slack. You might have even found me with my laptop open and actively working – entirely in my own time. Not something I’m proud of, and it’s something I’ve pretty much stamped out now.

Over time, I’ve swapped out the extended working hours to spending time in the evenings with my family. I get quality time with my partner, whether that’s us watching a film together, or just playing some games on the computer – it’s all quality time that needs to happen. I make time for myself as well. I will dedicate some time once, sometimes twice a week, where I’ll do a hobby. We’ll get into those at later.

Full focus at a coffee shop by Tim Gouw
Working can be a 24/7 job at times. Do your best to have a break when you can

Family & Friends

You’ve got your work network, and then there’s your “inner network”, these are friends and family. Having an active, and appreciative inner network will do wonders for you. Make time for them, and they’ll always make time for you.

I try to get out of the house at least once a week to see my family in some regard. Whether that’s going to my mum’s for a couple of hours on a weekend, going to my sisters in the evening to see my niece and nephews – or just having a catch up over WhatsApp. We often invite a close family friend over to play games and cook with myself and my partner on weekends. It’s not a lot, but having a different person in our home feels good and refreshing. She’s not bad at Overcooked either!

Turning off “work mode”

Now, this is one that I’m terrible at, so this is probably going to be really badly worded.

When you clock out of the office, drive away, etc. Stop. Now, in today’s workplace, that’s easier said than done. I even wrote a post about “Being a Developer in the Modern Office” that specifically talks about this issue. You can read that below;

Being a Developer in the “Modern Office”

How does the modern office impact a Developer and their “flow”. Does open-plan work for IT? How about “always available”, or “open door”

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Here’s my top 3 tips for “getting out of work-mode”

  1. Setting up Slack notifications and Do Not Disturb hours to suit your hours. This will stop any notifications going off in your personal time.
    • Note: People can override this, and notify you anyway, however they are told beforehand that you’ve asked not to receive them. So they think twice about it.
  2. Discuss time with your line manager / director. Talk to them about the extra time you’re putting in. Maybe you need some additional resource in your department? Should you be getting overtime payments for your hours? Spoiler: Yes, you should.
  3. Keep a log of your time. Get yourself a little note book, or a weekly calendar, and jot down what you’re doing with your time. It’s incredible how quickly that time can add up over the week.

Personal Time

When I say Personal Time, I don’t mean time outside of work with family, or friends. I mean time to yourself.

We’re all individuals, and yes, we have families and friends who we need to spend time with and be social. However, your mental health, is yours. Don’t find time for yourself, make time. If you’re lost of what to do for 20-30 minutes, go for a walk. You’ll find that you end out spending more time away than planned, and you’ll return feeling refreshed, and reinvigorated.

Normally if I find myself lost with nothing to do, or I’m stuck between two; I’ll go for a walk to the local supermarket, to buy a bottle of water, and then walk home. This might only take me 15 minutes, but I feel great for getting out, and even better for having drank the water – far better for me than a coffee

Step 1 by pixpoetry
Spending 15 minutes a day, getting some fresh air away from work can do wonders for your productivity and W-L balance

Hobbies

We’ve all got our hobbies. Reading, crotchet, TV series, Netflix Binge, Gaming, socials with friends – some people collect stamps. Who are we to judge them for their decisions?

When you’re looking to balance your work and personal life nicely, you’ll need to ensure that your hobbies don’t interfere with the balance. For instance, if I feel overwhelmed with code at work, I’ll generally take a step back from personal side projects, or assisting others with their coding challenges in my spare time.

Equally, I’ll try to avoid gaming, as it gives me the temptation to just “pop on Slack”, or “fix this quickly”. Do your best to find a hobby that removes you from work. If you can find a shared hobby with a family, or your partner – even better. Shared experiences are great for everyone.