“Your work-life balancing act.”
Merridth D. Simpson, SHRM-CP, CDP, RACR
Director, Human Resources
Methodist Charlton Medical Center
How’s your work-life balance? With the new year, and a new decade, upon us, it’s a good time to assess it. The topic interests me because in human resources I constantly look for ways to help employees feel great about their work. I think about it in my own life, too.
For me, it’s harmony
I prefer to think of it as work-life harmony because I recognize that at no given time is my life balanced 50-50. But achieving harmony — that’s doable. No matter what you call it, the issue is becoming critical for professionals. The AMN Healthcare 2019 Survey of Registered Nurses found that nurses in particular are concerned that their jobs are affecting their health. In fact, many say that they’re planning to leave their jobs, whether they’re moving to another employer, retiring, or getting out of nursing altogether. What do they say would keep them in their jobs? More flexibility and work-life balance.
With this in mind, I’ve come up with a few tips.
Recognize the warning signs of burnout
Are you more irritable or less patient? Are there changes in your sleep or eating habits? Are you having headaches or unusual neck or back pains? These are all signs of stress.
Stress is inevitable. But if you take care of yourself, it’s easier to manage. That means eating well, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. And if it means taking off a day or two, do it. That’s why we have paid time off at Methodist Health System.
Examine your lifestyle
Are you spending enough time with the people and things that are most important to you? We all need interests outside work. If your waking hours are only about work, then you’re out of balance.
Learn to say no
Sometimes our plates are full because we simply take on too much. If we set personal goals and priorities as the basis of how we allocate our time, that helps. Save the yesses for the things that really matter.
Stop feeling guilty for saying no
This especially goes for women. There’s a saying in China: “Women hold up half the sky.” Sometimes it seems that professional women hold up the entire sky. It can be true for men, too, but more often women have a harder time with this. When I worked in corporate America, one thing I noticed is that our male colleagues could walk away from work to see their kids play sports without a second thought. We women would do well to take this page from their playbook.
This could mean limiting your work hours, making sure you take lunch, taking all your vacation time, or avoiding business calls and emails after hours.
Get organized and delegate
You can better manage your time when you’re organized. And don’t forget to delegate, especially if you’re a leader. Taking it all on yourself not only affects the quality of your work but also robs someone else of the opportunity to shine.
Do what you love
A recent study of physicians by Tait Shanafelt, MD, chief wellness officer, Stanford Medicine WellMD Center, found that physicians who spent at least 20 percent of their work hours engaged in activities that were meaningful to them had a 69 percent lower burnout rate than those who spent only fiv5e to 10 percent of their time on meaningful activities.
Practice gratitude. Life changes on a dime, so try to enjoy every minute. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, try to find something that you’re grateful for.
Don’t waste your time
A wise professor of mine used to say, “Live your life so the graveyard gets nothing.” Graveyards are full of unfulfilled dreams, unwritten books, and un-started businesses because people thought that they had more time. Your time on Earth is precious. Don’t squander it.
Take advantage of Methodist benefits
If you’re a Methodist employee, you have a whole range of benefits designed to help you achieve work-life balance. For example, we have:
- A lactation program for new moms.
- A strong health and wellness program, with wellness coaches on most campuses.
- A great employee assistance program. Some people don’t realize how helpful our assistance program can be for caregiving, parenting, stress, anxiety, or anything that makes you feel overwhelmed.
- Onsite fitness centers on some campuses.
- Excellent diversity programs, recognizing that different generations and groups have different needs in the workplace. Methodist has earned the No. 2 ranking on DiversityInc’s Top Hospitals and Health Systems in America for our commitment to inclusion and diversity. We’re also on VIQTORY’s Military Friendly® Employers list. In fact, soon we’ll be rolling out our veterans support groups.
As a health system, we continually look at our benefits program to make sure we’re doing what we can to support our staff. That’s why our employee engagement surveys are so important. We listen to our employees to understand what they feel they need. Many of the programs and initiatives that we have now were actually started and driven by some of the feedback we got in those surveys.
Under the question of “My organization helps me deal with stress and burnout,” Methodist ranks in the 85th percentile nationally. Some of the comments include:
“Love the excellent work-life balance provided by my supervisor and Methodist. … I have received nothing but support and understanding.”
“Methodist has an amazing executive and leadership team. … Its emphasis on employee wellness options and health plan reductions have been positive and powerful in creating a more healthy and cost-effective workforce.”
“Methodist is a great place to work. I believe the wellness programs are the best here.”
Join the Methodist family
If you’re not a Methodist employee, I strongly encourage you to explore the possibility. We are serious about helping our employees create a balanced life. No matter what you call it — balanced or harmonious — we’re all working for the same thing.
© Methodist Health System