Dear Dave:The amount of work we do and the extra hours we must put in are taking a toll on me and my employees. I want my employees to be happy, not burned out. The stress is becoming quite unbearable. How can we cope? —R

Dear R:I understand. No matter how effective you are, work stress can take a toll. A work-life balance must be achieved, or even the most dedicated, driven worker will burn out.

The coveted work–life balance is a much-needed concept that involves proper prioritizing between "work" (career and ambition) and "lifestyle" (family, leisure, hobbies). We are not robots and need to "get a life" beyond our work.

I think that everyone struggles to find the right balance between work and life. As a manager, how you personally handle this challenge influences your team members -- they are looking to you for signs of what they can and should do to achieve some balance.

What happened to balance?

You are not alone in the struggle to achieve a work-life balance. Throughout the world, many people are putting in extra hours, taking on extra tasks beyond their "job description," or using their computers and phones to be on call when they're not at work.

You need to ask yourself, is work a rewarding and fulfilling part of your life, or is it something that now takes up so much of your time and energy that you do not enjoy it? To make things worse, has modern technology made you so contactable that you can never take a breather?

I also believe that a lot of people are having a more difficult time finding balance in their lives, because there have been cutbacks or layoffs where they work. They're afraid it may happen to them, so they're working more and harder. Sadly, some managers take advantage of this fact and over-work people.

Here are some ways to bring a little more balance to your work week:

1. You need "me time" — When you plan your week, make sure to schedule time with your family and friends, be alone, or engage in activities that help you recharge.

2. Delete time and energy zappers — Many people waste their time on activities or even with negative, "gloom and doom" people that add no value. Take note of the activities that don't enhance your career or personal life, and minimize the time you spend on them.

3. Exercise -- It's hard to make time — or find the motivation -- for exercise when you have a jam-packed schedule, but it may ultimately help you get more done by boosting your energy level and ability to concentrate.

4. Try to relax — Try leaving work earlier 1 night per week. Also, even during a hectic day, you can take 10 or 15 minutes to do something, like going for a short walk. Moving around a bit works wonders.

5. Innovate — Ask your employees about what they do to enhance their well-being beyond work. You may get some very creative ideas to help you "turn off" for a bit.

6: Ask for direction — If you still can't seem to achieve some balance, it's time to be brave and ask your manager for help. Be objective and explain what the over-abundance of work is doing to you and your staff.

It is essential for each person to make decisions based on what they truly want their lives to look like and then take the necessary actions to make it so. It's not always easy, but it can be done.

Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at dac05@charter.net. Conrad is a professor at Augsburg College and directs the school's MBA program in Rochester.