Work life balance examples: Your guide to a more fulfilling life

Work-Life Balance Examples: 6 Scenarios & Solutions for a Happier You

By now, most of us have heard plenty about the importance of work-life balance. In the aftermath of the pandemic, TV news programs and social media alike continue to present the dangers of an unhealthy work-life balance – from physical health issues such as high blood pressure and digestive disturbances to mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. We know to figure out what brings our lives meaning, find time to recharge, and not overwork.

Knowing and doing are two separate things, however. As much as people desire a healthy work-life balance, achieving it often remains difficult. Both the professional and personal spheres contain challenges.

No perfect answers exist to solve these complexities, but progress can be made. Consider the following six work-life balance examples. Do one or more of them resemble your dilemmas? If so, their solutions could inspire your own.

Scenario #1: Dealing with commute and childcare problems

Gina really likes her job but fears it may be time to look for a new one. The 45-minute commute each way daily is becoming increasingly difficult. Traffic in the area has worsened in recent years, getting Gina’s workday off to a frazzled start before even stepping foot in the work environment. After work, she tries to book it home so her 7th-grade daughter won’t be alone after school. The girl used to stay at her friend’s house until Gina picked her up, but that family moved recently.

Solution: Gina reluctantly decides to talk to her boss about the need for a better work-life balance. The company has experienced difficulty with employee retention during this current period of low unemployment, so management does not want to lose anyone – especially experienced workers. Her manager asks if remote work would help with job satisfaction. Gina would still need to be on-site for team-building on Mondays but could eliminate the commute the other four days of the work week. They agree to a trial month.

When they meet after 30 days to evaluate, both sides are happy. Less physically and mentally drained, Gina’s productivity reached new highs. Adding to her overall well-being is the newfound time for self-care, including Gina and her daughter routinely utilizing their YMCA gym membership!

Scenario #2: Achieving work-life balance in remote work

Anita believed telecommuting would be the solution to her work-life balance problems. After two months at home, though, she thinks differently. She expected to get more done without co-workers stopping by to chat. But now she contends with a husband who wants her to run his errands and a mother who cannot understand why joining her for long afternoon shopping excursions is out of the question. When the kids come home from school, they always seem to need help with something while she’s trying to focus. In the evenings, when watching television, Anita’s mind often drifts to job-related tasks that need completion. She sometimes sprints to the computer in her home office during commercials to do “just one little thing.”

Solution: Over time, Anita learns the importance of setting clear boundaries. She explains to her loved ones that remote work does not mean freedom to do whatever, whenever. They begin to understand that her employer expects her to get things done like on-site workers. While being at home provides some flexible scheduling, it does not translate to full-time availability.

Anita starts posting a “do not disturb” sign on her home office door when she needs uninterrupted concentration. She attaches a post-it stating when she will be available to answer questions or offer help. This action keeps family members from knocking to ask when she will be done. As an added bonus, she has found that the kids often solve their problems or learn to entertain themselves during this period when she cannot be bothered.

To stop the feeling of always being “on,” Anita now makes a point to “unplug.” She logs off her computer before sitting down to watch the evening news and silences the notifications on her phone. She also closes the home office door. With work out of sight and out of mind, she gives her full attention to personal activities and enjoys them more.

Scenario #3: Limiting personal obligations and work demands

Simply put, Amy has more on her plate than hours in the day can handle. Because her office is understaffed during the busiest season of the year, her work hours keep extending and cutting into her personal interests. And with June being Pride Month, the LGBTQ+ ERG (Employee Resource Group) she leads is especially active. Now, the local library needs someone to head the summer book sale. Fellow board members keep bringing up her name. Amy knows she must give them an answer soon, and she vows to think about it thoroughly once her head ever stops hurting and she gets more than five hours of sleep a night.

Solution: Amy comes across an article on burnout, and a light bulb goes on. The text describes her to a T. She realizes her physical health and mental health are in danger if she does not create a healthy work-life balance soon.

First, Amy talks with her manager. She explains the impossible nature of her current workload and long hours and requests help to prioritize items on her to-do list. Amy also asked if any less challenging tasks could be delegated to the summer intern. The manager agrees to this sensible solution. As her work-related stress decreases, Amy’s health problems subside.

Amy then evaluates her personal activities. As much as it pains her, she realizes that sometimes she must say “no” to taking on more. She tells the library board that other obligations at the moment prevent her from leading the upcoming project but that her schedule will open up in time to chair the winter book sale. People understand and thank her for taking on that future commitment.

Scenario #4: Establishing good work-life balance through time management

Andrew never understood how parents could forget to pick up their child – until it happened to him.

The office admin interrupts Andrew’s project meeting. She informs them that the elementary school is trying to reach him. Andrew looks at his phone, which he had silenced, and sees several missed messages. “Today isn’t Thursday, right? Oh, yes, it is,” he thinks. He was supposed to pick up his son because his wife was at the dentist.

Andrew quickly contacts a neighbor, who agrees to retrieve the child and keep him at her house. He then sheepishly talks to the school secretary to apologize, explain the error, and give permission to release the kid to the neighbor. Andrew knows he will have plenty more uncomfortable conversations at home tonight.

Solution: Andrew’s wife gives him the expected lecture – and a bound daily planner. She tells him to write about his personal life and professional life commitments. Keeping both in one central place allows a full picture. You can see it easily when a project meeting and a school pick-up conflict.

Never one for time management apps, Andrew likes the paper and pencil system so much that he decides more scheduling could improve his life. He blocks out time to clear off his desk once a week. He designates an hour on Friday to play catch-up before heading home for the weekend. And he marks a day to come home early to make a special “apology dinner” for his family!

Scenario #5: Recharging by taking time off

Jerry knows he suffers from a poor work-life balance at the moment. He was so busy yesterday that he did not realize he forgot to eat lunch until he unpacked the unopened brown bag at home that evening. Not that he made it to dinner on time either, much to the chagrin of his family. Jerry feels he has been disappointing them a great deal lately. Exhausted after work and on the weekend, he keeps backing out of installing the basketball hoop and backboard his son received for his birthday on the garage. Jerry also wants to make good on a promised date night at the fancy new restaurant nearby but cannot find the time and energy.

Solution: Standing around the water cooler, a co-worker mentions he recently tried out that new Latin American dining establishment on Elm Avenue. Jerry laments how he wants to go there but never makes it. The colleague notes Jerry’s stress level and suggests that Jerry use some vacation time. Jerry balks at the thought of “vacationing” at home, but the idea keeps growing on him. A few days off would allow him to catch up on the homefront and provide a much-needed break from the daily grind. He applies for three days to tack onto a weekend.

On the Monday Jerry returns, several team members remark on how refreshed he seems. He talks happily about shooting hoops with his son. He gives a review of the new restaurant plus a review of a great Netflix series he binge-watched with his wife. People talk about possibly taking time off themselves for stress management, making Jerry feel that using vacation days to improve work-life balance might catch on as an important part of company culture.

Scenario #6: Making personal time your own

When Lawrence hears his son’s class needs more chaperones for the zoo field trip, he decides to volunteer. He requests to take that day off of work and clears his calendar. On the bus trip, though, he soon learns he had not thought enough about his absence.

Lawrence receives a call from a client but needs to switch to text when the two can’t hear each other, with rowdy 8-year-olds gabbing in the background. Then, while pacing around trying to get a better Internet connection at the zoo, he temporarily loses track of his group of kids. To top things off, while forwarding some data to his boss, Lawrence totally misses Lucky the Baby Monkey doing his famous backflip. When his son talks on and on about the monkey’s feat during dinner that night, Lawrence feels awful.

Solution: Lawrence’s spouse observes his quietness and later questions him. After hearing about all the interruptions, she reminds him that paid time off is part of his compensation package. He earned that PTO and should learn to enjoy it. She suggests that he make it clear to his boss and colleagues that he will be unavailable next time. He should put a message on his email and phone stating that he is away from the office. He also can include the name and contact number of a fellow team member who can be reached during that absence.

She also encourages him to be present in the moment. Mindfulness helps people feel fulfilled, from better employee engagement at work to more joy in their personal lives. Lawrence starts realizing his son’s childhood will pass as quickly as that monkey’s backflip, so he better savor it.