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Can co-workers kill your work life balance?


A friend recently confided in me that no one in his office takes a lunch break and asked, "Should I?"

That's a tough question because most of us know what the answer should be. A big fat N-O!

If everyone is cranking through lunch hour, shoveling sandwiches in their mouths while clacking on their keyboards, you will be seen as the office slacker if you zip out even for a short lunch break. Now, I know some people who will do it anyway and keep their jobs.

But part of doing our job is adapting to the office culture, and sometimes that office culture defined by our co-workers is not really conducive to work life balance. Now, I'm not ruling out changing the office culture. Cranking through the lunch hour turns out to be bad for productivity in the long run.  A new study  shows employees who exercised more during work hours increased their work productivity by improving concentration and problem solving ability and required fewer sick days. So you COULD print the study, put it on your co-workers desk and suggest taking short group walks at lunch time.

And, then another tricky scenario where a co-worker can wreak havoc with your work life balance -- the perpetually late team member. Do you start the meeting or project without a team member whose always late ...especially when waiting means another late night?

I'd like to say yes...why should you miss out on family time because Joe Team Member has a faulty inner clock? But reality is if he or she outranks the rest of the team, you might have to suffer through the delay initially. Of course, at some point you might have that tough conversation with your team members and decide as a group to address the problem.

And then, we have the scenario where your co-workers resent you taking a day off for a family emergency -- a sick child or elderly parent. This is going to become a BIG problem for you. In one of my first jobs, pre-kids, a female reporter had a young child who was kicked out of day care almost weekly for his runny nose or barking cough. The woman had to drop everything and go pick up her kid. As soon as she walked out the office door, my co-workers (all young and single) blasted her. They even complained to the boss. She quit a few weeks later. As a working mom, with a little hindsight, I think she should have said something to her co-workers about how hard she was working to balance work and family and how they may be in the same scenario one day.

To me, supportive co-workers are critical to your success at work. Did you know that supportive co-workers actually can help you live longer? In a 2011 article published in “Health Psychology,” the American Psychological Association finds that workers show a health benefit by having a “peer support system” from their co-workers.

The bottom line, you can't pick your family, you can't pick your co-workers. But if you can -- pick wisely.

Readers, don't you think co-workers, maybe even more than the boss, can make or break your efforts to achieve work life balance?