According to recent media and studies, millennials are not so much about the money, but more about the work-life balance. We want to have it all – great career, social life, and personal development. Government agencies, particularly at the federal level, are already investing time and research into better ways to help millennials out with this balance.
But managing work-life balance can be especially difficult in a public service career. In a recent survey by Ernst & Young’s Global Generation Research, nearly one-third of millennials say managing their work, family and personal responsibilities has become more difficult in the past five years.
And while we’re working more hours, millennials are also almost twice as likely than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers to have a spouse or partner working at least full time. Many surveys show that this means we’re also the most stressed out of the generations.
While it may take some time for government and other workplaces to adjust to expectations for work-life balance, what can we do in the meantime to achieve balance in our own lives?
As a full-time employee, wife and mom, I find that the exact solution still eludes me. But I do notice a difference when I put the following suggestions and tips into practice:
- Be up front with your workplace. If you’re interviewing for a job, ask ahead of time about the flexibility of the work schedule. Research the agency before you interview to find out what the culture is like in terms of nontraditional work arrangements. Be up front and say if you’re a student or not and if you need to leave early a couple of times a week for classes. Fortunately, many government agencies looking to hire entry-levels are already willing to accommodate such schedules, particularly through Pathway Programs. Bottom line is communication with your workplace is extremely important. It’s up to you to set the tone and let your workplace know you have other responsibilities. For you, it may come down to deciding whether an ever changing schedule on the Hill is more suitable to your needs or a consistent 8-5 schedule in a federal agency is better.
- Learn how you work best. How do you best tackle your to-do lists? Do you have the most energy in the morning? That’s when you should start with your urgent priorities and high-energy tasks. Or maybe you’re the type who needs to warm up first. If you find it hard to settle down and work or if you end up procrastinating, then start with the easiest tasks and work your way to the bigger ones. Work-life balance is not about cranking out all nighters just because everyone else is doing it. It’s about figuring out how you manage stress, accomplish tasks, and motivate yourself to get things done. Learning the best strategies for your at-work, at-home and at-school to do lists can help you better manage all your responsibilities and deadlines. Understanding how you function best will really help you hit your stride at work, at school, and at home.
- Take care of your well-being and health. These are great words of wisdom from none other than Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post and author of “Thrive.” She realized the importance of taking care of herself the hard way – after collapsing from sheer exhaustion working 18-hour work days for a media company. Huffington points to how today’s culture glamorizes how much we sacrifice our health, bragging about the few 3 or 4 hours of sleep we get. She compares this to congratulating someone for coming to work drunk. We can’t function properly if we’re not healthy and our work and personal lives will suffer.
The point is work-life balance is just that: balance. If you’re all work and no rest, you’re definitely not achieving this balance and will most likely run into problems down the road. The first thing you’ll need to better balance work and home life is sleep. I can personally attest that this makes all the difference. If you find it hard to get yourself in bed early, try just getting 30 minutes more sleep than you did the previous night. And as hard as it is to find time, try at least 10 to 30 minutes a day of exercise. Even if it’s not P90x, it’s better than nothing at all. It’s definitely easier said than done, but I have to remind myself, “If I only get 5 hours of sleep this night trying to finish other tasks that can wait, how will that affect my productivity and mood for tomorrow?”
- Let go of the need for perfection. This is definitely a hard one, especially for me. Not only does the fear of failure and desire to be perfect prevent me from striving for better opportunities, it also keeps me in a perpetual state of stress.
When we’re juggling several responsibilities and priorities, we’re not going to always be 100% in everything. That’s why it’s important not to take on too much while also knowing that there are times when we will not always have it together. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s okay if you’re not the top student in your class, it’s okay if you don’t pull an all-nighter for your readings, or it’s okay if you don’t have the energy to vacuum the house everyday. There are times when we need to relinquish this need to be perfect in everything. Be grateful and accept that getting by is more than enough.
It’s also important to ask for help. Whether it’s asking your supervisors, your professors, or your family; be upfront and honest. We really weren’t meant to do it all alone. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of maturity to ask for help when we need it. Sometimes “I’m doing the best I can,” is the best we can do and that’s okay. Everyone else may look like they have it together, but I’ll bet you anything they’re in the same boat.
For more tips on creating a better work/life balance, check out these blogs from the GovLoop community:
Have common struggles or tips to share on creating work/life balance? Please share in the comments below!
For more reading about millennials in public service, check out this weekly GovLoop series, First 5: Advice from millennial to millennial