Balancing work, family, hobbies, exercise and other activities can be challenging, especially in your first job. Because of technology and shifting work expectations, many people now check their work emails while they're in bed, plug away at work on the weekends and text with their bosses at night.
According to Small Biz Trends, 33 percent of employees will put in extra hours on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, and 66 percent of workers say they don't have a solid work-life balance.
But finding a peaceful balance between your professional life and your personal life can bring many benefits. You can lower your stress levels and reduce job burnout. Even if you're at the beginning of your career, consider setting healthy boundaries to create a solid work-life balance. Here are five ways to achieve work-life balance with your first full time job.
1. Think of your first job as an investment in your future
"If your career brings you real meaning or you are rapidly learning things that are of interest and value to you, this is a good time to invest in your career growth," says Christina McCracken, a career consultant at Pivot Career Consulting. "During this period, your work-life balance may bias towards more work, but this is the right balance for this season or chapter in your life."
"It's good to remember that many people who have worked at the most competitive tech firms worked huge hours early in their career," said McCracken. "They worked hard, loved their work and enjoyed that period. Eventually, it was no longer a fit, and they moved on to find other passions."
Readjusting your expectations about what your hours look like might be a helpful way to handle this situation. Accept that your new job doesn't fit a traditional nine-to-five model and create your schedule around that idea. For example, if it looks like you'll be working until about 7 p.m. most nights at your new job, make plans ahead of time with your friends around 7:30, instead of 5:30. That way, you have something to look forward to and won't feel disappointed when 5 p.m. rolls around and you're still hard at work.
2. Take time for healthy breaks
As long as your coworkers are stepping away from their desks for lunch, you should, too. Take advantage of free exercise classes at your job and any gym access provided by your company. Many companies also offer walking or standing desks to help defeat sitting for extended periods.
"You need something where you get rid of tension and stress from work," says Robin Ryan, a career counselor. If your company doesn't offer fitness-related perks, take a 10-minute walk to get some air. Small breaks like this throughout the day will allow you to come back to your desk feeling more refreshed.
3. Ask about after-hours expectations
Consider whether you really need to be checking in on work when you aren't in the office. Some bosses or companies might be upfront about what the after-hours expectations are. If your boss sends a late-night email that says, "No need to worry about this until tomorrow morning," you can likely take them at their word.
"You don't have to work 24-7, but you do have to be focused on doing your best and doing what your employer asks of you, and not just what you want to do," says Ryan.
If you're not sure which tasks are urgent and which can wait, ask for a check-in with your boss to get a better understanding of the expectations.
4. Make the most of downtime
Ahh, the weekend. Time for relaxing, catching up with friends and, sometimes, lots of chores. Ryan recommends doing tasks like laundry and going grocery shopping on weekday nights, instead of on a Saturday or Sunday. That way, you'll have your weekends free for activities you enjoy, not more to-do list items.
Also, consider ways to make your nighttime routine more relaxing. It's easy to pop on Netflix, check work emails or scroll through Instagram until you fall asleep. (A 2018 study found that Americans spend over 11 hours per day consuming media.) Unplugging for a bit and spending time doing something you enjoy might help you with work-life balance. The same goes for spending a few minutes each night meditating or praying, writing in a journal, or doing some stretching or deep breathing.
5. Keep connected with your life outside of work
Being friendly with your coworkers outside of the office can make the workday more pleasant. But routinely heading to happy hour and commiserating about how much work you have won't necessarily improve your work-life balance. Making a point to see friends outside your work circle, spending time with your family and staying active in your favorite hobby can all be ways to keep your mind off work and remind you that there's more to life than your big project.
Some of your outside interests might need to take a backseat for now, but it will likely pay off in the long run. "Learning and growth take time and energy," says McCracken. "There are things that you'll want to learn and accomplish that are important to you and may lead to new opportunities. These will invariably involve more hours and effort. The benefit of doing this early in your career is that it can set you on a more rapid trajectory, or one that is a more meaningful fit to you." She continues, "This is just one journey of many. Find your own and make it great."
If you're still searching for your first job or are looking to find a position that's a better fit and allows you to balance work and family, use our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder to ensure your application materials align to the needs and requirements of job advertisements.