In the quest for a harmonious work-life balance, many of us turn to mindfulness practices and self-help books, or resort to consuming copious amounts of caffeine. (I would swim in a pool of cold brew if I could, especially on Mondays.) But what if the answer was much simpler than that? What if we just needed to turn our frowns upside down and stop being overachievers? As it turns out, being positive and not overworking yourself could be the key to unlocking a healthier and more balanced life, Redditors say.
"I've realized that the key to a simple work life is to never moan, never question things for the sake of it, just get on with it and be 'happy to help' when I have to," writes one user in the subreddit r/simpleliving.
But is there any truth to that? Let's take a look at the state of work-life balance in the U.S., and hear what other Reddit users have to say about their own work-life struggles.
Understanding the Facts
Let's face it: Achieving a healthy work-life balance in the Unites States can be challenging. If you've traveled to Spain and witnessed how most stores and restaurants close their doors for a few hours every afternoon for a siesta (nap time), that tells you everything you need to know. But in the U.S., many workers struggle to balance the demands of their jobs with their personal lives. (Cries in American.)
According to a 2021 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time employees in the U.S. worked an average of 8.5 hours on weekdays and 5.9 hours on weekend days — totaling about 54 hours per week. In Europe, the average workweek consisted of 37.7 hours in 2021, with Germany clocking in first place with an average of 1,354 hours worked per year, according to a study by Clockify. By comparison, the U.S. averaged 1,757 work hours per year.
Other factors contributing to worker burnout include the lack of paid time off and the pressure many employees feel to be constantly connected to work through technology. With the rise of smartphones, computers, and remote work, employees are finding it increasingly more difficult to unplug from work, even when they're on vacation, studies find.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 55% of U.S. workers did not use all their vacation days in 2022. Furthermore, a study by Statista found that 43% of workers felt the need to check their work emails every few hours outside of normal working hours.
I worked for a Germany based company before. It's the same thing. 6 pm sharp no work, no email, no phone calls. They even apologized if they have to WhatsApp me. Annual leave no one bothered me at all. 13th month salary, bonus. Excellent work-life balance. https://t.co/awtETjn0rC— Abah (@chairman_GLC) May 8, 2023
How Can We Remedy It?
Sure, the stats may be depressing as hell, but there are still ways to try and achieve a healthier work-life balance without having to move to Germany. "Some people THRIVE off of moaning and complaining and being negative about their day to day job, but those same people are the ones who live and breathe their job and have no work/life balance. I want a simple life so I have to create that for myself," says one Redditor.
Perhaps the sweet spot is indeed figuring out how to create that balance yourself. But achieving that can be tricky, users say. "I'm curious, how do you set those boundaries? I feel like [our mindsets] are the same," writes one user, adding, "Except people keep coming to me for things then and I run into the problem of being someone who people keep dumping work on."
Others claim it's important to find a balance and not seem too aloof, as this could land you on the radar of toxic coworkers. "Tread lightly. Avoiding the kool-aid for too long may cause some friction with these office slaves," says one Redditor.
The 60%-70% Rule
Other ways to avoid burnout include not overloading yourself, users say. "Always work at 60%-70% capacity to avoid burning out and set a realistic standard for yourself," advises one Redditor, adding, "Giving it your all at 100% when you start out isn’t sustainable long-term and is a great way to set yourself up for failure. You don’t want leadership to think your 100% output will be the norm. Ever."
Some users agreed with the 60%-70% approach, with one Redditor describing how overworking led to a slew of health issues. "When I started working after finishing university, I thought I have to show how good I am and always gave 120%," writes the user, adding, "Fast forward 5 years, multiple intestinal ulcers and several gastritis and stomach issues later, I can now say that all this was because of the immense stress by trying to give 120%."
"Right now I never try to give more than 60-70% and the opinion of my boss and coworkers literally didn't change at all. Nobody even realized my productivity went down. All these health issues were for naught."
The Bottom Line
Achieving a healthy work-life balance can be challenging, especially as workers face longer hours, fewer vacation days, and constant pressure to stay connected to work. But remember, your health should always take center stage; if you're not feeling your best, you also can't produce your best work.
And there are still ways to try and achieve a healthier work-life balance, including: setting boundaries between work and personal time; taking advantage of vacation days and flexible work arrangements; and seeking out support from friends, family, or mental health resources. By prioritizing mental and physical health, workers can take steps towards creating a more balanced and fulfilling life — both in and out of the office.