We’ve all dreamed of moving to Europe at least once during
this presidency our lives. My vote’s for Switzerland–because they’re really good at minding their own business, and I respect that–but each country has its own individual appeal. It seems Europeans have perfected the work/life balance in a way that Americans have not. Honestly, for the sake of our stress levels, we could learn a few things from them.
Americans pride ourselves on grinding every moment of every day, which is likely a result of the principles that this country was built on. We’re all chasing some modern-day version of the “American Dream”. Social media increases that pressure to always appear busy and working. That spills out into how we speak to each other. We’re always tired, always overwhelmed, and we often wear that like a badge of honor.
The current job market, the rise in the millennial entrepreneurial spirit and the mentality that you need to put in endless hours and “pay your dues” to be qualified to do what you want to do can make you feel like taking time for yourself means you’re slacking off. We skip lunches, let vacation days accumulate and work 80 hour work weeks like that’s normal. Many jobs encourage this behavior and praise it as “taking initiative”, when you’re really depleting the energy you need to do what you do well.
In Europe, most employers realize the importance of creating a culture that encourages balance. When you invest in your employees, their wellbeing and their happiness, you’re investing in the success of the company as a whole. Finding out how your people work best, and providing the environment that they need to thrive in, is key. The alternative is that people will begin to see their job as a means of survival, instead of a passion and a career. If a job feels temporary, there’s no incentive to want to give 100%.
The drive and determination behind the American work ethic is admirable. However, it’s important to remember that what you do is what you do, not who you are. There has to be disengagement. Here are three takeaways from the European lifestyle to help you find balance:
1. Require vacation time from your job, and actually take it.
Don’t let the fact that other people are not taking advantage of time off deter you from enjoying what you’ve earned. Use your sick days for mental health days. See life outside of your office. It’s easy to feel bored when we do get a moment to ourselves, because we lose sight of who we are and what we like to do when we’re not working.
2. Take long lunches away from your workspace.
Spend thirty minutes or an hour catching up with co-workers or taking a moment for yourself. Make it a point to step away and make yourself as unavailable as possible during that time. Breaks are breaks for a reason.
3. Manage your work days/times.
You’re not any less ambitions because you decide not to overextend yourself. Of course, your work week will look different depending on your job and its demands, but know when you’re giving too much of yourself and pull back. You will make better use of a shorter period of time if you are well rested and in a good head space.