What is Work-Life Balance and Why Does it Matter?


By  Heather Matthews, CAPP, PMP

This blog was first published by the New England Parking Council (NEPC).

What is work-life balance?  And why is it important for Parking and Transportation professionals.  Work-life balance is the balance between time spent on work versus the time spent with family, friends, and your own personal wellbeing.  Sometimes it refers to the how much flexibility one might feel in their jobs.

As Parking and Transportation professionals, we all know the demands of our daily work lives.  Pulled in many different directions and possibly in a firefighting state most days, we live stressful work lives.  Without a meaningful work-life balance, burnout, fatigue, failing personal relationships and even your own health can be at stake.  But how does one achieve the ideal work-life balance?  I am not an expert; however, I can share some tips that have worked for me.

Prior to the pandemic, I found myself increasingly stressed at work.  I was doing more work with no pay increase, my children at home had their own stresses and needed me as much as my work did, I was working too many hours – 50+ each week and I was bringing my work home with me.  I began to feel anxious all the time and some days like I couldn’t breathe.  I was having health issues that began to impact my daily living.  It came to a head for me, and I decided to take a 6 month break from work and change jobs.  Then a pandemic hit, and the new job was no longer available.

I had always touched yoga sporadically as a form of exercise but never looked at it as a way to destress.  I found a yoga studio that offered online classes throughout the pandemic and began practicing daily.  Within a month of daily practice, I began to notice a difference not only in how I felt physically but in the way I handled stress and daily life.  After a year, yoga and meditation became a part of my routine and when I miss it, I feel out of sorts.

I eventually landed a role in parking that, again, came with a high level of stress.  Only this time things felt different.  I put priorities on my time, I take breaks when I know I need them, I say no when I know I need to, I prioritize my health and do the things I know give me life.  Not only am I a better mother, wife and friend, I am a better employee.

Here is my list that I find helpful in having the ideal work-life balance:

  • Learn to say “no”. Sometimes, you have to say no to things to have more time and energy to do the things you love and are important to you.
  • Take advantage of breaks. Work for an hour and a half and then take a 15-minute break.  Take a walk, enjoy a cup of coffee in silence, listen to some music or even dance around.  You are actually more productive when you allow yourself this time.
  • Prioritize your health. Our bodies need to move for physical, mental and emotional well-being.  For me this is a daily yoga practice and walking or even swimming and surfing.
  • Practice self-compassion. LET GO OF PERFECTIONISM!!  We all struggle, and we all fail.  Its ok!  We are not going to get everything right in life and we don’t need to.
  • STOP APOLOGIZING for being you! I don’t mean be a total jerk and never apologize.  I mean, don’t apologize for who you are.  You have wonderful, unique, and even quirky qualities and you have to own them!  Be you and be proud!  Don’t apologize for talking too much or living loudly or for being too quiet or not following all the social rules.
  • Make your boundaries known. I made the mistake of giving my personal cell phone number to a client.  This client began to text me night and day, weekends, vacations, etc.  I had to call him during my last vacation and politely ask him to please email me with most concerns and use my cell phone in an emergency only.  I also had to stop responding to him immediately as well because that gave him permission and trained him to use texting.  Boundaries are important with everyone you work and live with, and it is ok to set them.
  • Make space and time for your family and loved ones. Our jobs can replace us in a day, our families cannot.  I know its cliché but its true.  In my book, family must come first.  When you are supported by your employer in that, they get a better employee.
  • Make time for what matters most to you. Enjoy the moments, however small they may be.  Quality over quantity.
  • Most importantly start small. If you are stressed and working 50+ hours a week, don’t just jump into my list and do everything at once.  Start small to make habits and not something that is unstainable.  Try taking a 15 minutes break each day for a week.  Put a timer on and walk away from your desk for 15 minutes, you will feel more productive.

Making a healthy work-life balance a priority, will give you a fuller, happier life.  Enjoy the process, make it fun!  Occasionally, take a look at your priorities and see how they have changed with a healthy work-life balance.  Happy to chat if any of you want some tips!  Namaste!

Heather Matthews, CAPP, PMP, is market president for Premium Parking. She can be reached at hmatthews@premiumparking.com.