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Keeping a healthy work/life balance in your IT career

February 20, 2014

With organizations facing a talent shortage as the need for IT support grows, IT professionals can sometimes feel the pressure. For this reason, it's all the more important to maintain a healthy work/life balance in IT careers

Keeping an appropriate dynamic between personal and company concerns can improve job satisfaction, enhance performance and increase productivity. Therefore, taking strides to develop a healthy balance can benefit employers as well. In today's interconnected world, however, the line between work and personal time is increasingly blurred. As The Fiscal Times noted, this can result in an "always on" work culture, which can be draining. Additionally, Pew research revealed that parents are struggling to balance the demands of their jobs and their families. And it's not just parents: A New York Times article described how professionals without children often face pressure to spend long hours on the job, causing them to miss out on the activities they enjoy or sacrifice responsibilities toward friends and family members.

IT workers can follow these tips to foster a better balance between their work and personal life:

  1. Disconnect now and then. Unless IT professionals need to be on call in case of emergencies, they should turn off their smartphones and leave work email unanswered during off-hours, The Fiscal Times suggested. While it's easy to be always connected, it's important to establish boundaries and expectations about availability outside of work.
  2. Let leisure time be leisure time. Entrepreneur noted that people are inclined to talk about their work all the time. While IT jobs are exciting, not everyone wants to hear about them constantly, and it can be refreshing to think about something else for a while. The Fiscal Times recommended scheduling leisure time, such as social activities with friends, and treating it as an appointment to make sure it doesn't get sacrificed to other demands.
  3. Go on vacation. According to Expedia, many workers fail to take their paid vacation time and often keep working while on vacation. Employees might feel guilty about taking time off, The Fiscal Times explained, but workers usually come back to their IT jobs refreshed and ready to be more productive. Crosby Noricks, a fashion marketing strategist and founder of PR Couture, told Entrepreneur that going on vacation helps him to be more creative and solve problems more efficiently. 
  4. Take lunch - with people. It's easy to have lunch in front of the computer to save time, but taking a mental break from the office can be a great refresher, The Fiscal Times suggested. Small opportunities to socialize with coworkers can also help to build a positive company culture, which fosters job satisfaction.
  5. Limit late nights. Entrepreneur recommended imposing a personal limit on late work nights. Establishing these boundaries can allow workers the extra time they need without making a regular habit out of a long day. By leaving the office earlier on other days, employees can save time for their families and the activities they enjoy.
  6. Let go of guilt. Many people feel bad about insisting on personal time, whether that means turning off the smartphone for a family dinner or taking a vacation. But taking a break from work can actually improve their performance, benefiting their company in the long run. Microsoft employees Nitish Kumar Meena and Noah Dyvadheenam explained on a Microsoft blog that making time for interests and passions fuels their creativity and replenishes their energy for the workplace. On the flip side, it's important not to let guilt build up about activities missed while working, suggested The Fiscal Times. Instead, employees should  focus on ways to adjust their schedules in the future, if necessary.

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