As employers try to do more and more with fewer employees, Shelagh McCorry is one of those striving to maintain her sense of work-life balance.
In her mid-40s, she works in financial services in Halifax, and is acutely aware of the pressures on companies – and on the people working for them. “My challenges are not industry or job specific. When you get a good job you want to keep it, particularly in Eastern Canada where there is higher unemployment and fewer jobs,” she says, noting that the hours at work have got longer and longer and the pressure intensified over the years. “I’m feeling it – and I’m not alone.”
In December, searching for ideas on The Globe and Mail Careers site, she found a turn-of-the-year Balance scorecard and questionnaire, which helped her to evaluate her situation. It’s a good time to take that scorecard and take stock and reflect on your stress and work-life balance. Click here to get to the survey or find the survey below.
She was worried when she filled it out by the fact that there wasn’t enough time in the day to accomplish all her work – and other pursuits. To help her through the stress of the day, and counter her tendency to become hunched over from all her hours at her desk, she decided to get up earlier every day to do yoga.
It was a tough decision, since she’s definitely not a morning person. But exercise had slipped out of her life when she tried to leave it for later in the day. She was missing too many classes for her liking. So far, the new approach has been working. “It makes a big difference. I’m more relaxed and I’m more cognizant when I sit at my desk of my posture,” she says.
Married, when she filled out the questionnaire she was also troubled by debt load. It wasn’t a huge factor, but it was in the back of her mind. She mused about staying home more so as to spend less and pay down debt.
But at the same time, she was aware that being busy with work she had lost touch with some friends, since they had stopped making plans to do things with her as she had become unreliable. That led her to vow to show more discipline – to walk away from her desk at a designated hour to fulfill her other commitments. “The work will always be there tomorrow. Unless it’s an emergency situation, you need to walk away. You need to be good to yourself,” she says. In the past six months, she feels she has made some progress in re-engaging with friends.
She also laces more breaks into her day – including trying to get out for lunch rather than eating at her office, and taking a walk. “You have to push yourself and say, ‘I have been at the desk and I need to move.’ It’s hard – really hard to do that,” she says.
She has made sure she allocates sufficient time to her passion for scuba diving. “There’s no cell phone, no e-mail. It’s a good place to be,” she reflects. And she is also more diligent in getting to bed at a decent hour, so she garners sufficient sleep to refresh herself. She has a strategy of reading to bring her down before sleep from the excitement of the day. “That Game of Thrones is addictive,” she says.
It’s an intense industry to be in, and the pressures continue. And she feels it is common these days for most folk to have more work than can reasonably be handled. But she is happy she has a job – a good one – and that she has made some progress in righting the balance. “I’m actually more focused on myself,” she says, with some satisfaction.