Achieving a healthy work-life balance can improve our well-being significantly. Here are Stafffinders’ tips on how you can establish such a balance
What is a work-life balance?
The topic of work-life balance is a very broad one indeed. There does not exist one singular definition given that work-life balance can mean different things to different people. This is primarily due to the fact that our idea of the ‘right’ balance is likely to change as we grow older. For instance, a 20 year old may prioritise building their career whilst a 30 year old may focus on starting or expanding their family.
However, a work-life balance is essentially how we split our time between the demands of the workplace and other important aspects of our life such as our family, friends and our health.
Why is a healthy work-life balance important?
Having an unhealthy work-life balance, or rather, dedicating too much of our time to work whilst neglecting certain lifestyle factors such as hobbies and family, can exert a negative impact on our well-being as individuals. Furthermore, the stress of constant work and the abandonment of our personal lives is damaging to our health, our relationships and our happiness. In a recent survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation, it was revealed that work-related stress costs the UK 10.4 million working days each year. Yet they claim that the human cost of unaddressed work-related stress is much higher. The Mental Health Foundation suggest that in order to avoid the detrimental effects of work-related stress, we must follow a healthy work-life balance.
Achieving a healthy work-balance that works for you is not only important for your personal health and relationships, however, establishing a good balance can also lead to increased performance, increased job satisfaction and decreased possibility of burnout.
Why is everyone talking about work-life balance?
Establishing a good work-life balance is a very topical issue. Here are the reasons as to why it has become such a popular talking point:
- Blurring of the professional and the personal: as a result of technological advances, we are no longer required to be in the workplace to do work, rather, we can take our work home with us. This has resulted in a blurring of the physical boundaries between work and home. In other words, people often work whilst at home and therefore neglect important aspects of their personal lives.
- Increased working hours: nowadays we are faced with a rather demanding work culture. Otherwise stated, increased working hours often results in employees abandoning important aspects of their personal lives in order to work. A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation reported that due to long working hours, 27% of employees feel depressed, 34% feel anxious and 58% feel irritable. Evidently, not establishing a healthy work-life balance can be seriously damaging to our mental health.
If you feel unhappy about the time you dedicate to work and if you neglect your personal life in order to work, then you most likely have an unhealthy work-life balance.
Tips for employees to achieve a work-life balance
Here are Stafffinders’ suggestions as to how you can find a balance between your work life and home life.
1. Choose a job that allows you to be happy
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs.
In order to find a perfect work-life balance that works for you, you should choose a job that makes you happy. Doing something that you actually enjoy means that you will go to work happy and return home in a good mood. This way, you can be happier and more content with your life.
On the other hand, if you dislike your job, you are likely to go to work in a bad mood and return home feeling stressed and miserable.
Like Steve Jobs says, if you haven’t found a job that makes you happy, keep looking!
2. Create boundaries between work and home
New technologies have resulted in some employers expecting their employees to be constantly accessible even during out of work hours. For instance, they may expect them to reply to emails and answer work phone calls. It is your duty to re-establish these boundaries.
- Turn off your phone: phone notifications disturb your time off work and can result in feelings of stress. Therefore, in order to fully unwind and de-stress, it is important to switch your phone off and enjoy your time to yourself.
- Don’t check emails often: only check emails when needed to ensure that the time spent with family and friends is actually quality time with no work-related disruptions.
The Mental Health Foundation suggest that if you need to take work home, dedicate a certain area within your home to your work– somewhere where you can shut the door on it.
Once you establish boundaries between your workplace and your home, it is vital that you respect them. Don’t allow them to become blurred.
3. Balance your schedule
As well as go to work, you should also set aside time to spend with your family and friends. Doing fun activities with them such as going to the cinema or eating in a restaurant can help you to unwind and relax. For those who are low on cash, enjoying a picnic in the park or watching movies at home with friends or family is a less expensive alternative that can help you to unwind.
Likewise, creating positive memories with family and friends can boost your happiness and cheer you up whenever you’re feeling down or stressed.
Scheduling these activities into your diary not only gives you something to look forward to, however, it also motivates you to complete your work in time so that you won’t have to cancel your plans. Spending quality time with family and friends can lower stress levels and increase feelings of happiness.
An effective way by which you can create a healthy work-life balance is by prioritising. Dedicating a certain period of time to a given task and focusing on the most essential activities avoids too much time being spent on doing less productive activities and therefore avoids an imbalance between work and personal life.
At the end of your working day, you should question whether there are any activities that result ineffective and could be cut out of your working day. This means lessons are learned and you can be more efficient and productive the next day.
5. Say NO
In order to strike a healthy work-life balance, sometimes it is necessary to communicate our limits and boundaries. In other words, it is important to say no to extra work if you feel it will create an imbalance between your work and personal time.
If you believe that an activity may cause increased stress levels, you have every right to turn down extra work.
When you are asked to take on extra work by your manager, it is a good idea not to answer straight away. Rather, you should think about whether you would like to take on the extra work and consider how it will affect your stress levels. Once you have decided on what you would like to do, you should then communicate your decision with your manager.
6. Ask for support
Another way to achieve a better work-life a balance is by communicating with others to receive their support.
- Speak to a friend/family member: allows them to understand any stress that you may be under due to work and they may even suggest activities that you can do together in order to decrease your stress levels.
- Speak to your manager: let your manger know if your personal life is struggling due to work or if you’re dealing with family issues. Communicating with them will help them to understand your situation and they may provide you with opportunities such as a flexible work schedule that can allow you to establish a better work-life balance.
- Speak to your co-workers: if you have a heavy workload, ask a colleague to assist you to complete a task in time. You should also offer your support to your co-workers whenever they may need it provided that it won’t interfere with your own work. Not only will this decrease the stress levels of you and your co-workers, however, working together can also enable you to establish increased positive work relationships.
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