Editorial: a healthy work balance

As a student, the one thing I hear constantly is “if you think university is hard, wait until you get to the real world.” But as much as I hate to hear it, I kind of understand it.

What I really love about university is how customizable your schedule can be. If you’re not a morning person, there’s nothing saying that you have you take 8:30 am lectures. If you have a lot of outside commitments and find it hard to balance your schoolwork, you can take a reduced course load. Your schedule and pace are largely up to your own discretion.

I also recognize that this is a benefit that is barely afforded to people once they graduate and begin working full-time.

After university, you can expect to work from 9-5 every day, averaging about 35 hours a week for most positions. If you’re in a new role, you can expect an average of 2 weeks of vacation annually.

None of this is bad, I just feel as though creating a healthy work-life balance is rarely talked about in the adult world.

There’s probably a reason that adults always lament about the “real world struggles,” and maybe this is the student in me speaking, but spending every evening preparing for the next work day and only getting to indulge in your hobbies on the weekends sounds pretty miserable.

We may all have the same 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean you should have to work yourself dry everyday.

Maybe this will make me sound like a whiny 20-something, but I truly believe that Western culture promotes an unhealthy work-life balance. If you’re working full-time, that means you have vacation days. You just have to make sure that you use them.

Workplace burnout helps no-one, but it’s almost bound to happen when you’re working non-stop with little relief. Research has consistently shown that taking vacation time improves productivity and lowers stress leading to better mental health overall.

Many European countries, including Denmark, Belgium and France have policies in place that allow workers to devote more time for leisure as opposed to work,; and this system is working greatly for them.

Some of the most productive countries (whose labour productivity was measured by GDP per hours worked) were European.

Canada’s productivity is ranked pretty closely with said European countries, but I think I got my point across: work-life balance isn’t promoted as much as it should be.

If anyone’s reading this and cursing me mentally for being a lazy, entitled Gen-Z’er, I think it’s worth asking yourself why you think having more free time is a bad thing.

Why wouldn’t you want the ability to spend more time with your family and friends, or devote more time to learning a new skill or hobby?

My argument isn’t unfounded. Research has also shown that employees who work for companies that encourage taking vacation are much happier with their positions than with companies where vacation is discouraged or whose managers have mixed feelings about taking time off.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, work will always be there when you get back.

But missing opportunities and experiences will only make you feel guilty about not using your vacation time better.

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