[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 7th of an eight-part series, where we delve deeper into the Whole Developer concept and each of its elements.
This week, we explore Work/Life Balance, why it’s important, and tap into some best practices. If you missed the rest of the series, click here to check it out]
Ok, so as most of you master coders and hustlin’ entrepreneurs know, to get anywhere in this hyper-competitive business world, you need to have “work ethic,” which we all know is office speak for “long hours.” However, there’s a flip side to this. Today, we’re gonna talk about the fun stuff - the importance of having a “work/life balance,” which involves legit reasons to take some time off. No no, it’s not about going down to the beach two days before launch, there’s more to it than that! Taking time off work is not only good for you, it’ll make you a better worker.
Skeptical? Think of it this way: too much of anything is bad for you. Just as too much chocolate will make you sick, and too much Vitamin A can kill you, too much work is bad for your mental, and eventually physical, health. Being able to balance work with other interests - education, hobbies, friends and family - will lead to a happier, more fulfilling life for you, the Whole Developer. And a happy worker is a productive worker.
In Silicon Valley, the boundaries between work and life are usually blurred - to the point you can’t even see the line at all. Work becomes life, and even with perks, this is a recipe for either burnout or loss of your sense of self. The Whole Developer has an opportunity to set an example for this industry, to show how living a healthy, well-rounded life actually results in more productivity, not less.
Some people take pride in working super long hours, as if working reasonable hours somehow makes you a wimp. But employers are starting to realize this is B.S. While hard work and long hours are par for the course, many companies are starting to offer flexible vacation time, work from home days, team outings etc. They know that just having a holiday party no longer cuts it.
Whether you’re starting a company or joining one, here are some tips to improve work/life balance for yourself and at your company:
Alone time- We love our co-workers...kinda, sorta, sometimes…but all team members should take much needed breaks from the daily grind, which can lead to them being more productive in the long run. Let’s face it, we’re all human. As such, having people constantly on top of each other can kill creativity, productivity and chemistry. Each member of the team should have some flexibility to be alone for a while, even while getting work done. Take your laptop to the local coffeehouse for an hour or do some strategizing while sitting in the park.
Disconnect after hours- A ping on your smartphone is not a call from God. Unless it’s something pressing, put your phone down and respond to emails later. If you’re someone that obsessively checks emails or industry news, it may be a good idea to remove those from your phone, or have two phones and make sure your personal one is the one you keep with you away from the office.
Get out of the office together- This may sound like an obvious one, but how often do you actually hang out with your co-workers? If you work in a really small office you might chill a lot, and even in a larger one, you may have a couple of close friends. But how often do you bond as a whole team? Get out of the office together and have some good ole’ fun. Go bowling, go on a scavenger hunt or have a NERF battle, and bring the fun into the office by reminiscing about the awesome time you had the next day. Or get all giddy with anticipation beforehand. Either way, you all benefit in the long run.
Accept your limitations- It may be tempting to compete with your co-workers and prove that you can do everything that everyone else can do. Relax, don’t worry! Mom told you that you were special in your own way, and she was right. Not everything is a competition. We’re all wired differently, so accept your limitations and know when you’ve reached them. At that point, take a long lunch break or call it an early day, instead of burning out and being miserable. Your colleagues will understand, and they should do it themselves when they need it.
Get Moving, Eat Well- Exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle often falls by the wayside as workload increases. Being active will not only keep you in shape, it’ll also increase your productivity while making you happier and more energetic. Also, pay attention to what you’re eating. Certain foods can help brain stimulation and boost energy, while others can slow you down, so think twice before scarfing down that Doritos Locos Taco.
Cultural Outings- This one helps both work and life. It can also be done alone or with the whole team. If you’re stuck in the office, you see the same people, who have the same experiences, who have the same ideas...same same same...BORING. Well, in order for a business to grow, new ideas have to come through the door. This happens when employees get out of the office and experience new things- also known as “living life.” Whether it’s a trip to the museum or a cool tech event (ANGELHACK HELLO!!), get out, get away, be curious and be social. You’ll come back to the office happier, healthier and chalk full of new observations.
Keep following us for our last Whole Developer installment, and be sure to sign up for our program starting this fall. We’ll teach you more about work/life balance, and other skills for developers to become lean, mean and well-rounded members of the most exciting companies around. Learn more here.