What’s your work stress level like?
Does your workplace culture promote work-life balance or is it more fast-paced and demanding? Are you given opportunities to enjoy your time away from work or does work rule your life?
You can still achieve success at work without work being your lone priority. Use the summer to give yourself and your work life, a “check-up” -- are there areas for improvement in terms of work-life balance?
Can you take a lunch break?
Everyone needs a break. And while a long lunch break isn’t possible on every single workday (as urgent matters do arrive), it should be both probable and possible to take moments out of your workday for yourself.
Can you take time off without fear of reprisal?
Please do not forget that you are well-entitled to your PTO, as long as you ensure it is scheduled in advance. However, sick days and personal days are not meant to be planned for, and a sign that your workplace is healthy is your ability to take an unscheduled day off (provided, of course, you don’t take advantage of your employer’s kindness).
Can you unplug after hours?
Are you regularly expected on-call even after the scheduled workday ends? Of course, there are exceptions to all expectations and sometimes, having to work late or check email after hours on certain occasions are occupational hazards in all industries. With those rare exceptions in mind, you shouldn’t be on-call on a regular basis. Your off time is your off time.
Can you expect to feel appreciated for “going above and beyond?”
In those unexpected situations, is your hard work and dedication acknowledged? Is the fact that no one had to ask you to stay late, to help a colleague who is struggling, to arrive early if called for… noted? While your goal in “going above and beyond” should not necessarily be “to be noticed,” lack of recognition is a warning sign of a toxic workplace. Continuing to “go above and beyond” in a situation in which your efforts fail to receive acknowledgement on a regular basis breeds resentment, and such resentment undoubtably can lead to stress and career dissatisfaction.
Can you stop thinking about work?
While the responsibility for how you answer this question mostly lies with you and your brain and not your employer, your employer is most likely the reason for a “no” answer. It might be up to you to stop thinking about work when you’re not at work. But if you can’t stop thinking about work, it’s probably because you have been made to feel guilty if you, in fact, stop. If you’re having dreams about work, and they’re dreams of disaster situations, you can probably call that a red flag.
Of course, this “check-up” cannot possibly apply to everyone’s working situation -- small businesses, freelancing, self-employment, any service industry, and retail-type jobs all run on different schedules than the nine-to-five model, and the red flags should be noted in context. However, if all else fails (even in those exceptional working situations), go with your gut. If you can feel prolonged, nagging tension in your gut on a regular basis -- and not just once in a while -- whenever your mind drifts to work, it’s time to reevaluate your work-life balance.