3 Lessons In Job Satisfaction & Work-Life Balance

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(If you’re a disenfranchised factory employee working in an assembly line at a Walmart sweatshop, don’t read the next paragraph because it’s offensive and ignorant.)

Have you ever wanted to quit your stressful office job and be a disenfranchised factory employee in an assembly line at a Walmart sweatshop? Has your challenging career got you burned out and aching to be a nameless face in a sea of uniformed workers assigned to perform mindless, monotonous tasks?

Umm. Or is it just me?

I know, I know. How can I sit here fantasizing about an abusive factory job when I’ve got a stable, well-paid, highly respectable gig in a building with air conditioning and an awesome cafeteria downstairs?

But I can’t be the only one who has wondered if the grass is greener on the other side.

How about you? Would you be happier if you were bored and tired at a factory as opposed to stressed and emotionally drained in a cubicle? Or are you the opposite– bored and tired, wondering what it would be like to feel stretched by a challenging job?

The other night, I fell asleep by 9 pm after eating a huge bowl of Spanish rice, which I devoured while watching house porn. I think I did this because I needed an escape from the emotional stress of my day job as a bereavement counselor, on top of my (joyfully) exhausting obsession with writing for this site. Carbs make me feel like I’m flying away from the stress on the back of a unicorn.

Which is one of many reasons why I’ve begun thinking about how to increase my job satisfaction and have a better work-life balance– to feel like my jobs are better integrated into my life and my identity. To feel like I’m not missing out on life just because my jobs are demanding. To feel like I don’t need a huge bowl of Spanish rice to feel relaxed.

In my research thus far, I’ve learned the following three things:

1. You don’t need The Perfect Job, just one that has the following components:

  • a short, reliable commute
  • two or more co-workers you really like
  • work that challenges you without completely destroying you
  • supervisors who provide clear goals and unambiguous feedback
  • work that allows for a sense of control

(Thanks for the wisdom, Penelope Trunk!)

Honestly, I’m relieved by this list because it means you don’t necessarily have to have The Perfect Job to be reasonably happy.

(Phew! Anyway, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a blogging dolphin trainer who travels the world to perform music that raises money for African orphanages.)

The list above makes me realize that my day job is actually pretty damn good. Which means that my need for escape via Spanish rice is about an entirely different issue…

2. Job satisfaction and work-life balance have a lot to do with everything but your job.

This one’s about how you perceive your job as it fits into the big picture of your life. In other words, what are you doing when you’re not at work?

Do you have meaningful quality time with family and friends? Do you pursue hobbies, work on personal projects, and support causes that interest you? Do you take care of your body with nutritious food and physical activity? Do you spend time in nature, in meditation, in a house of worship, in a soup kitchen, or other places that satisfy your spiritual needs?

These are the things that fill your cup. Your job will not fill your cup. Yes, a job can be fulfilling. Yes, it can be enjoyable. But it will not be what completes your life.

So you don’t necessarily have to make major changes in your career for a more balanced life. Just make sure you have a job that gives you the space to enjoy all the stuff that’s important to you, even if it’s just one hour each night, and on weekends. That way you don’t have to be resentful of your imperfect job.

3. Satisfaction and balance are about your relationship to your job and to yourself.

Here I’m talking about who you are when you’re at work, and who your job helps you become as a person.

Are you proud of who you are while you’re completing your tasks? Do you try to transfer skills and qualities that you developed on the job into your personal life? Are you nurturing office friendships and having enough laughs around the water cooler?

In short: Are you truly living while you’re working?

That’s all I’ve got for today, folks. And yes, it’s mostly because I need to stop typing and watch the season finale of the reality TV show that taught me a few life lessons on rejection. If I don’t watch some mindless TV, my brain will explode and life will feel out of balance. I’d foolishly blame it on my lack of a factory job, of course.

Your Turn: What have you come to learn about job satisfaction and work-life balance?

 

*PS. Want more on this topic?  Watch this.  It’s funny and smart. And I’m not just saying that because he’s got an Australian accent. Maybe.

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6 Responses to 3 Lessons In Job Satisfaction & Work-Life Balance

  1. a.d. says:

    I commute two hours each way, and I couldn’t be happier with it. It is truly a key part of my own work-life balance, though its demands require me to creatively and diligently structure the rest of my time.

    Ultimately, I think the point should not be to shoot for someone else’s ideas of round peg- round holes. If you have square pegs, go find square holes. In other words, each of our reasonable happiness depends on each of us and our unique needs and desires, and us all taking the time to figure that out and pursue it.

    • Kimberly says:

      Excellent point, thanks for adding your 2 cents. I know of someone with an equally long commute, and she loves it because it’s her “alone time” away from the kids– the only chance she gets to read, sleep, check Facebook, etc.

  2. Steph says:

    Wow, it’s kind of depressing to read this list and realize I can’t check off anything on the positive list (except that my commute is reliable and less than 1hr, though I still wish it were shorter). This is even more confirmation that I need to get out asap

  3. Sheryl says:

    “Just make sure you have a job that gives you the space to enjoy all the stuff that’s important to you”

    This is so key, and I think it’s missing from a lot of the narratives about what our work lives are supposed to be about. I’m never going to be a career-centric person, and while I can picture jobs that I would adore and find especially rewarding at the end of the day I’m way more interested in the life I come home to than my work.

    • Kimberly says:

      Good for you!! Not everyone ends up with a rewarding career, but not everyone needs to. Ain’t no shame in that, especially when you’ve got a great life to come home to, as you said. (And unfortunately, there’s a lot of judgment out there based on what you do for a living, which is a whole other blog post!)

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