Work-Life Balance: Work and Wellness in the Trades
Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Work-life balance is the amount of time and energy you spend doing (and thinking) about your job in relation to the amount of time you spend focused on the rest of your life. Employers that strive to offer work-life balance as a benefit know that it is a key part of keeping their employees healthy, happy, and motivated.
In today’s hectic world which places so much emphasis on busyness, ‘work-life balance’ may seem like a buzz line used by the self-care industry and not an attainable goal. While, yes, work-life balance can be challenging to achieve it’s also a practical prescription for wellness.
Work in the building trades is demanding, both mentally and physically. Being tired or distracted on the job can create poor outcomes and even safety risks – and nobody wants that! Prolonged stress can wreak havoc on the body increasing the risk of certain health issues including depression and anxiety, sleep disorders, digestive issues, heart disease, reproductive issues, and cognitive and memory problems.
Chris Swasey, Owner and General Manager at Lewis Creek Company, shares a past experience that helped motivate him to strive for a better work-life balance for himself and his employees.
“Years ago, I skipped a family reunion to work. The work wasn’t even critical to my employer, but I had absorbed an attitude that I was supposed to work as much as possible. I had worked that entire summer with only a few days off. I knew I was shredded and I needed a rest and I had been looking forward to breaking away for a few days.
Ignoring my inner voice, I kept pushing through. I worked that weekend when I should have been connecting with my aging family members. I remember getting up at 4:00 AM to drive to the large industrial building we were renovating. I bought a coffee and a sugary pastry on the way, which was not good fuel for the work ahead of me, but I was too overwhelmed to take care of myself.
The work was hard. I was demolishing concrete block walls. By lunchtime, I had injured my hand so badly that I was out of work for the next six weeks. I know I could have avoided that injury if I’d been alert and clear-headed. Being injured forced me to take the break that I so sorely needed, but it was far from relaxing as the medical bills came in and my regular paycheck did not.
These days, I try harder to be aware of my work-life balance. I regularly ask myself: Did you work more than was healthy for you last week? Did you skip a fun activity or spending with your family, and if so, was it really necessary? This year, did you relax, and enjoy time off for any holidays or special occasions? Sometimes when you’re overworked you don’t even notice or you tell yourself there isn’t any other way.”
The truth is, not everyone has the resources to take a vacation. Not everyone has the flexibility to leave work to get to a kid’s soccer game or even a doctor’s appointment. Achieving a healthy work-life balance isn’t always easy, employers should recognize this and take steps to make it easier.
At Lewis Creek Company, job flexibility and paid holiday, vacation, and sick time are just a few of the benefits offered to help support work-life balance. You’re expected to work no more than 40 hours a week. Sometimes, there’s the option for overtime, but it’s always just that -- an option.
Life happens. It can be joyful and it can be stressful. The last thing you should be worried about, whether you’re caring for a sick kid or trying to enjoy a family reunion, is getting chewed out or seeing a smaller paycheck because you took a day off.
Job flexibility and paid time off are ways employers can step up and promote work-life balance. Recuperative time off is important for day-to-day wellness and job site safety. In the trades, the health impacts of prolonged stress can risk our ability to work in our chosen career long-term.