How to Balance Work and Life as an Engineer or Lead

The art of balancing work and life is something each person has to face and find on their own. But there are overall tips and guidance that can help everyone. Keep in mind that everyone has their own beliefs, perspectives, desires, needs, ambitions, situations, and more and all of those play a part in exactly how someone may balance their work life and personal life. So while one person may approach it one way, another person may approach it a different way. The following are general guidelines for any direction you may want to go. And later there will be advice on if you want to lean closer to maintaining a healthy work / life balance leaning to only working during business hours.

Setting Boundaries

One of the most important things in life, and that includes work / life balance, is knowing your boundaries and setting those boundaries. This applies in any relationship, and your situation with your employer is a relationship, it’s just a business one. You absolutely need to talk to your manager and set specific boundaries that you want to keep with your work / life balance. Ensure that it’s clearly communicated, and even written if you need to. That will ensure there’s no ambiguity or possibility that something could be forgotten or lost in translation.

By setting those boundaries, either when you first get hired, or later down the line, you are establishing your needs and communicating your needs and what they are. So when circumstances come up where your boundaries are getting close or may be crossed, you can remind others of those boundaries.


Now that you have boundaries established for what you want and need, you need to stick with them. Another key element to any relationship is consistency. If you want to have a healthy relationship, including a business one, you have to be consistent in how you interact with the other party in it. So if you want something specific, you have to stand up for it. If any time you’re challenged and you let it fall, you’re communicating that your boundary isn’t truly important to you, or you aren’t able to stand up for yourself. A good manager will support you, but you’re ultimately responsible for yourself.

Through consistency, you’ll eventually find that nothing really comes up anymore, and your manager will, over time, fully understand what to expect from you. And that’s a good thing! Like many things in life, consistency is key.

Finding the Right Culture

Ultimately, you have to find yourself in the right culture. If you want a healthy work / life balance, but you work at a young start-up where they value passion, dedication to the job, and the whole company is working 60-80 hours a week, and you only want to work 40, then you’re simply at odds with the culture that you’re in. Even if you establish boundaries, and are consistent for sticking up for them, you may be at odds with everyone else around you, and that may be okay, but it may not be. Not everyone has to fit the mold of the culture, but fundamentally you should align with it.

Sometimes you simply have to level set and come to terms that you’re either in a team and company culture that can support you, or they won’t. And if they won’t, then you’ll have a difficult conversation and road ahead of you. But if you’re in a culture where you expectations fit in well, then you’ll likely have less issues.

Maintaining a Healthier Life Balance

I personally favor a stronger, and healthier, work / life balance where when the business hours end, then I close my laptop and I am done for the day. I don’t have Slack on my phone, or my personal computer, and I allow myself to dedicate my time and attention to my family, hobbies, and interests outside of work. I feel like my family life is a lot stronger, healthier, and happier. I feel like I’m able to enjoy my passions and hobbies with more zest, and more attention. And I feel like I’m a better teammate and team lead as a result. I come back to work invigorated, energized, and happier because I’m allowing myself to balance everything.

It has taken a lot of effort though! I’ve made it clear to my company, and my team, from day one, and even during the interview process, where I stand and what my boundaries are for this. And sure, at times, I need to work an extra thirty minutes, or an hour. Or I get a PagerDuty alert in the evening and I need to address it. But 99% of the time, I work hard during the day, and at close-of-business, I log out, and everyone respects me for it. And that also goes for my team too! Just about everyone on my team also values a healthy work / life balance, and they get it! It helps that I’m in a place of authority, and the company culture values that too, so I can protect my team, and push back where necessary, and everyone is happier as a result.