The Pros/Cons of Community Involvement and Work-Life Balance.

The last few weeks have been pretty theoretical and a lot of focus has been on work in some form.  This week I want to focus on the balance part of work-life balance.  Specifically let’s talk about the part of the equation that deals with giving one more purpose, relieves stress, and adds another dimension beyond both work and family.  Let’s talk about community involvement.

As a bit of a disclaimer, there are many activities one can do outside of work to restore balance to the force such as exercise, cooking for fun, and gardening.  Community involvement is an interesting aspect however as it has the power to enrich or deplete one’s sense of happiness in life.  Let’s get started with the pros.Pros:Being committed to something outside of work can be a great experience and here are some reasons why you should consider it:

1) It gets your mind off of work:  If you’re like me then you probably have trouble shutting off your “work brain.”  Involvement in community groups of any kind allows you to forget about the daily grind and actually enjoy life a little more.

2) Form friendships and contacts.  As Spock would say, “it is logical” that when you are around people with similar interests you are bound to make a few friends.   Work friends are great, but sometimes its nice to interact with others who share common interests and passions.

3) Stress relief.  Involvement in other groups can typically reduce your stress.  Since you want to be in that environment you will naturally become more relaxed and open to having fun.  If all goes right, you will become excited about attending meetings, events, and functions.

4) Giving back!  Do I really need to explain this one?Cons:As great as  involvement is, there are a few drawbacks.  Beware if:

1)  Involvement drains too much time!   Having a hobby or group you connect with is great but make sure it does not take significant time away from your work or your family.  This can be very challenging for eager beavers and workaholics alike.  Have fun but know your limits.

2) Involvement turns into more work!  Giving back to the community should not feel like another job.  This should not be confused with doing any work since that is often part of the process.   If filling out paperwork, meeting deadlines, recruitment, meeting organizational performance standards, and committee meetings no longer energize you then consider scaling back your commitment.  This should be a life giving endeavor!

3) Involvement turns into more involvement.  This is not necessarily a bad thing but being involved in one group can lead to involvement in other groups or different branches/chapters/clubs of the same organization.  By all means maximize your experience as long as you don’t fall into the traps sprung during points 1 and 2 in this section.

Final Thought
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As a Higher Education professional I have many conversations with students who are over-involved with clubs, associations, and other groups on campus.   “You don’t have to be a part of 15 things….try being a major force in 2 or 3.”  Hopefully that sticks with them past their college days.I am great supporter of community involvement as it has helped me overcome some tough times in professional and personal life.  That being said, we must make sure that involvement doesn’t take away from professional and family growth.  The good news is in most cases community involvement enhances both of those aspects; as long as we know our limits and stay true to our priorities.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 

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