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Work-Life Balance in Retail

"Flexible hours required." When you see this in a retail job posting, there's a good chance it means: Long hours required as well as nights, weekends and holidays. Blah.

Working long and hard is standard procedure for many retail professionals. This is especially true for those who run their own store or are making their way up the corporate ladder.

But is work all there is?

Not according to the happiest retail pros. These men and women have been able to have their retail cake, eat it and wash it down with fine champagne. So how does a retailer balance a career with a personal life? Here are some keys:

Balance Takes Planning and Organization

Remember this: Being in retail works against a balanced life. Your employer won't provide it for you; it's in the company's best interest to have you devoting more time to the store. So you must plan and implement your own work-life balance.

A successful retail manager and Monster message board contributor under the handle smac1954 says, "If you never set your goals, you never reach them." He advocates writing to-do lists on a monthly, weekly and daily basis. "Then, update and edit these lists every day to stay on track."

The problems can start on the job. Smac1954 often observes what happens to retail professionals who avoid planning and organizing their time. "People who are not prepared have a tendency to spend too much time worrying where to start, and when they finally do, the day is half shot. If that's the way the workday goes, you're always behind and will never have a day to spend at home," he warns.

Smac1954 recommends careful planning at home, too. "The to-do list for the home gets longer and longer every time you waste your free time, so it's important to you and the family to be organized there as well."

Monster user sebago1130 has 22 years' experience as a retail manager. He also has been happily married for 20 years and has two school-aged children. He agrees that planning and scheduling are important, both at the store and at home. "Try to schedule and plan your time off and vacations well ahead," he suggests.

Don't Do It All

Let's face it: Retail hours are the customer's hours. And in our fast-paced, get-it-now consumer culture, that means just about all the time. People whose work lives are out of balance with their personal and family lives often show one or more of these signs:

  • Resentment
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Depression
  • Unhappy family members
  • Dissatisfaction with work  

To achieve balance in your life, you have to know your priorities and act on your core values. You must become less tolerant of activities that aren't good uses of your time.

If you're a retail manager, frequently ask yourself: Do I really have to do this? Does the company need me to follow up on every detail? Smac1954 urges retail managers to "recruit the best available talent, train them completely, motivate them to want to succeed, hold them accountable for their responsibilities and empower them to do their jobs."

You've Got to Give to Get

"I have been fortunate enough to build a beautiful family life," sebago1130 says. "Along the way, I've learned some valuable lessons:

    1. Give and Take: I go above and beyond during the holidays and busy periods, never talk about the hours and give all I can. Often, my employer has paid back the favor during slow times.

    2. Help out When There's a Schedule Snafu: Don't make deals; just do it, and you will be rewarded.

Cop the Right Attitude and Then Communicate It.

Sebago1130 believes an important part of achieving balance is to be enthusiastic and to convey it. Here are a couple of his recommendations:

  • Rarely, if ever, complain about your schedule. Better yet, when you receive a favorable schedule, thank the boss. Bosses are never thanked -- only complained to -- about schedules; you'll stand out and will very likely be rewarded in the long haul.
  • If possible, have your family come to work every once in awhile to see what you do.

Balance Is Up to You

Take time to think about balance and how to get it. Remember yourself, your needs, your wants and your happiness -- these make up the ultimate barometer of balance.

And remember sebago1130's tip: "Marry well. If your spouse doesn't understand retail, you don't stand a chance!"

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