How does a job impact your life?
You start your day with a commute, then a number of hours at your dedicated workstation, followed by another commute home. Once through your front door, you may take a call from your supervisor, be called back into work for an emergency or check your email once more before heading to bed. In between all this action, you have to find time for your family, your health and your happiness. In short, we spend a long time each day dedicating our mind and body to our job. The impact our career has on us can be all-encompassing. It’s either invigorating or exhausting depending on the relationship you have with your job.
How does work influence your identity?
When you meet someone new, the conversation will eventually veer towards “so, where do you work?” Our job shapes so much of our identity, and it often defines, at least in part, who we are as individuals. Your career often relays to others your talents, passions and knowledge base. How could spending eight or more hours a day doing something not affect your overall identity? That said, it is so important to assess the relationship you have with your job. Is your job becoming your only identity or is it simply a part of who you are? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, but it is healthy to ask them and assess how you feel about how your career’s role in your life. While giving your job too much sway over who you are is unhealthy, someone passionate about helping others may find their job at a non-profit gives them the identity they desire. Another person may find they are defining themselves too much by their powerful position and not enough by their obligations to their family or spiritual life. In general, balance is crucial, although work often plays a key role within that balance.
How does work affect your happiness?
We dedicate so much of our lives to work, and many feel a sense of pride in what they do. Nurses are proud to get patients back on their feet. Builders enjoy seeing a completed project. A chef loves when a dish brings a smile to a patron’s face. We take pride in what we do and express ourselves through our work. This is why it is so important to find a career that can bring you happiness. That is not to say you’ll feel overwhelming joy at work every day, but there should definitely be more positive interactions in your job than negative ones. Without some sense of happiness at work, it’s easy to spiral into anger, despair or depression. The easiest ways to find some joy in your daily grind are to interact with others in your industry so you can relate to others on a common topic. Take regular breaks that allow time for reflection and rest. Even making a daily to-do list can help you feel accomplished at the end of the day and put into perspective the accomplishments you achieve each day.
How does work affect family life?
Many Americans spend eight or more hours a day at work – a third of the day. Another third is normally dedicated to sleep, so that means there are only eight hours or less to spend with your family. Making this time count is important, so it’s critical not to spend your free time ruminating on a bad day at work or a big project going on at the office. Having a job you can leave at the door lets you spend that quality time you have with your family wisely. Taking work home with you can deeply impact the time you have with your partner, children, friends or relatives. While some jobs don’t allow for a total communication cutoff each evening, it may be beneficial to set ground rules for yourself. This can include only checking email after dinner or not taking work calls on weekends or holidays. These small steps can help you further be present with your family. Ultimately, giving work too much of your time and your family too little will damage your relationships, which damaging in the long-run.
How do I know if I’m spending too much time working?
If the other areas of your life are suffering because you’re not spending enough quality time working on developing those areas, you’re spending too much energy at work. When you don’t have time to spend on your family and social life, your physical health or your ability to practice your faith, and these areas of your life start suffering, you have a red flag that you are spending too much time at work. That said, it’s hard to ensure your life is completely balanced at any given point. Sometimes your job will take more of your energy, and sometimes your personal life will. The most important thing is that you juggle spending time on each important aspect of your life over the long-run.
How does your job affect your mental health?
Many careers, especially those that are high-pressure, can weigh heavy on your mental health. Consider the banker who may have to deliver bad news to a client about insufficient funds or the farmer who isn’t sure if there will be enough rain in the season to sustain the crops. Constantly managing difficult relationships within your role – including tense client, coworker or boss relations – can be one of the hardest forms of stress to manage. Each personality pairs differently with a position, so one person’s stressful job may feel like no pressure to someone else. People who are more emotional and make attachments easily may not be the best suited for, say, a job in a hospice healthcare facility where they may experience tough emotional strain from the loss of a patient. In the same sense, someone who is very analytical and stoic may not be best suited for a career that calls for a bit of emotion, such as a funeral home director. Being aware of your mental health as it relates to your job is very important. If your role or relationships are causing you a lot of long-term emotional strain, it’s time to assess whether you need to find a new position or employer.
Does your job make you depressed and anxious?
If your job makes you feel depressed or anxious, there are numerous options to help remedy this. Many companies (including Focus) offer an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) that include mental health options such as counseling sessions, mental health screenings and evaluations or intervention programs to remedy what in your job may be affecting your mental health. It is almost always helpful to discuss about how you are feeling, whether you have that conversation with a family member, co-worker, supervisor, or even your HR representative. Letting someone know about your feelings can help you alleviate the factors that may be contributing to your declining mental state. Finally, if your job is the reason for your struggling mental health, and there are no options to correct the issue, it may be time to move along to your next career opportunity. For example, there is a high depression rate with those who work in the social work sector. It is taxing to always find the positive when you are working with broken families or abused children and there is no way to shift this job’s primary function. If this was your current position and you find yourself becoming depressed with no way to work through these feelings, it may be time to move to another related field such as teaching, child care, or counseling.
How can your job affect your physical health?
Just as a job can affect your mental health, it can also impact your physical health. This is especially true if you work in a very physically demanding job. Many blue collar jobs require heavy lifting, long hours standing and outdoor work conditions. All of these wear out the body, but many employees either learn to deal with the pain or ignore it. Even desk jobs cause physical strain. Sitting for long periods can cause back pain, neck pain and can make it easier to gain weight. Staring at a computer for long hours is likewise not exactly healthy for your eyes. If you have insurance, your health care package will come in handy if you have concerns about your physical wellbeing. Whether you believe an issue may be a result of your job or could affect your performance, it is important to have these things assessed by a medical professional. Ignoring your physical health is not an option as it could lead to major injury in the workplace or later in life. Additionally, it goes without saying to never accept a position that often pushes you beyond your physical capabilities. Being hurt on the job is a much worse outcome than searching a bit longer for more a more viable job option.
What should I do if I don’t hate your job, but I feel like my circumstances could be better?
The day-to-day grind can be rough even if it’s bearable. Oftentimes, it is important to recognize what portions of your job you can change to help make the grind manageable. Are there some coworker relationships you can work to improve to make the office more tolerable? Are you bored with your job? Asking for further training or responsibilities can help freshen up a tedious position. Asking for what you need can also make your situation better. Being honest with your boss about your wishes to change your schedule, pay or responsibilities may turn out well and cure you of those items that were making the job hard to deal with. If the overall feeling is that you don’t love your job but can tolerate it, especially until another opportunity naturally presents itself, it is worth the effort to make improvements on those aspects of the job you can change.
What are the signs it’s time to quit your job?
Sometimes you cannot fix the issues your job creates in your life. If this is the case for you, there are a few options: grin and bear it, wait to be fired or quit of your own free will. I’m sure, as you have guessed, leaving on your own is often the better choice for your integrity and sanity. There are many signs that can indicate it may be time to take your leave from your current position. These often relate to how your job impacts your lifestyle. Some reasons to quit your job are:
- Time with family or yourself is limited due to long hours or extended work responsibilities outside the office.
- Work causes excess amounts of stress. This stress can originate from the job itself, your team members or even clients; if the position is running you ragged with stress, it may be time to switch careers.
- Your commute or odd hours don’t allow for a proper work-life balance
- Your bored and want additional or new responsibilities that your current job can never give you
- You are ready to grow, but there’s no room for movement in your current organization
- Your job puts you in an irreparable state of depression or is a major strain on your physical health
- You dread going to work each day and count the minutes until you can leave.
- You cannot repair or endure the circumstances that make your job unbearable
- You have more negative interactions with your job than positive ones
In today’s economy, having a job is a necessity, but where you work is always a choice. Since our identity, happiness, mental health, physical wellbeing and overall self is so tightly intertwined within our jobs, it is of the utmost importance to choose and maintain a career that allows you to balance all of these parts of yourself. Take the time to assess your needs in these different aspects of your life and how your career is either contributing to or taking away from them. No job is perfect, but you do need something you can live with doing in relative comfort. Furthermore, change what you can control to make your work-life balance better and, if need be, take a leap and make a career change to ensure your needs are being met.