The line is thin between personal and professional life. This is truer now more than ever, since the technology is following us everywhere. It is so easy to scroll through work emails while you are waiting for your favorite TV Show to start on Netflix or bring your work laptop home to work on this special project during your day off. Crossing this line can go on the other way too. You can easily do some online shopping using your smartphone while you are waiting for your internal database to upload on your computer or answering a personal call between two meetings. That being said, even with the best intentions of packaging personal in one compartment and professional in another, we can’t always do so. What if something bad happens in your life? Like sickness, divorce, deceased, etc. At some point, when your life is falling apart, it becomes almost impossible to have no impact at all on your work. Like it wasn’t enough, the guilt of not being able to respect this ‘’professional rule’’ is showing her face when you needed less.
Honestly, I can say that I broke this rule a couple of times in my life, in different ways along the road. I have decided to share some tips that might help you deal with this duality between your work and personal life.
First things first
Having a bad day can happened to everyone and we can usually manage it with those few tips that my colleague Anna Pietrzak outlines in her article helpful tips to get you through a hard day. If you can avoid mixing both personal and professional life, please do so. It will save you a lot of trouble and will make your manager really happy. But if for some reasons it’s just impossible, here are the few things you can do to minimize the impact on your career, and feel less guilty about breaking this rule.
Choose wisely who you share information with
You might want to let your manager know that you are going through a difficult time when it will result in missing work or having to leave early for more than a day. You also need to think about who your absence will impact. If someone depends on you, it is a good idea to let’s this person know what is going on, without revealing too many of the details, and what consequences will result on your work. You might want to elaborate on a plan with this person to assure the coverage of your responsibilities. Also, it is a good idea to make decision on whether you would like to inform your clients.
Nobody is perfect
To beat the guilt of breaking the rule, start by accepting that you can’t be perfect 100% of the time. Falling is only human and what’s really matter is the way you will rise from that fall. Keep in mind that this won’t last forever and your life will go back to normal someday. For those who are super perfectionist, like myself, you will have to let it go at some point. Think of the worse that can happened, if you lack in any way at work and make a plan on how you will face this worse once your situation gets better. At least, you will feel a little bit more in control of the uncontrollable.
Find accountability in your work and stick to that. The more you focus on small things you enjoy and feel proud of, the easier it will be to forget what is happening outside of that bubble. The sense of purpose, empowerment, and pride in helping others are usually good allies when things go wrong. If you can find one important thing to hang on to, it will be very beneficial, you have my word!
Set your own rules
Each person is unique and we can’t wrap all circumstances into a black or white line of conduct. You need to find your own balance and follow your intuition. Periods of reflection during hard times could be beneficial and you will probably need some trial error to find the right formula. Fortunately, we are in a generational shift at work as the Millennials are redefining some rules, including the line between work and home. You can benefit from the technology in order to propose some temporary solutions to your boss that will help you deal with your personal stuff while you continue to work. Examples include: work from home, skype meeting with clients or a flexible schedule outside of the business hours.
Find external resources
When you deal with personal issues that are big enough to impact your work, you might want to consider external help. With the right support, it is much easier to cope with difficult situations and this way, you can avoid to unintentionally exploding at work, or to confiding with the wrong person. These experts are also better than anyone to give you the right tips for your own circumstances. In addition, many companies are offering these external services with the employee benefits (counsellor, lawyer, psychologist, social worker, etc.) This is always confidential and you are already paying for this in the benefits package. It worth a try at least!
At the end, you are the only one to decide how you will let a situation impacting your work. You have the power on what will be revealed, how you will deal with it and whom are trustworthy enough to know what’s going on. But don’t be too hard on yourself; keep in mind that a storm, no matter how big she is, always ends up in the past!