Work and a career are an important part of many of our lives, from helping us to pay the bills to giving us a sense of purpose.
However, it’s important to remember that work is just a part of our lives. While it may feed into many aspects of life, it’s important to find a balance that gives us some time away from the stresses of the office to enjoy other aspects of our personal lives.
What is a work/life balance?
A work/life balance varies from person to person. However, it’s essentially the amount of time and focus a person gives their work versus other aspects of their life
Of course everyone’s priorities change depending on a range of factors. For example, age can make your balance very different.
If you’re in your twenties or thirties, you may have strong commitments to building a family life whilst, at the same time, focus on growing your career.
If you’re in your fifties and sixties, on the other hand, your focus may be on more personally meaningful and purposeful activities, which may not have been present earlier in life.
Whatever you do to establish your work/life balance, it’s vital to create it and keep to it whenever possible.
Why do I need it?
In the current economic climate, where the pressures to work harder than ever are constant, the need to unwind from work can be crucial.
It’s human nature to want to feel in control of the conditions that affect your life, and not being able to can prompt a range of negative reactions including:
Work burn out: A person who’s worked too long and too hard will often simply burn themselves out, both personally and professionally. This can potentially cause problems with your employer should they see you display a lack of interest, a short temper or difficulty with others. This issue could prove costly to you, as it could lead to disciplinary action or, in the worst case, even dismissal.
Stress: A person who doesn’t achieve a satisfying work/life balance can end up generating extra stress in their life. As we all know, stress, when allowed to linger, often causes side effects that can lead to health issues and personal distress.
These conditions can take their toll on any individual and may end up having physical impact, causing a break down in relationships and impeding work performance. In other words, a lack of balance will create problems that can be costly physically, emotionally and financially.
How can I achieve a better work/life balance?
The first step to achieving a better work/life balance is to think about the demands on your current professional and personal life. Do you ever find yourself with time to yourself? Maybe you have too much free time. Or none at all.
Of course these considerations will vary for every individual. Regardless, you should make a conscious effort to establish your own set of rules that allow you to strike the right balance between work and life. Ways to do this include:
- Creating realistic boundaries between work and non-work items
- Prioritising tasks and events within both
- Set time aside for you: schedule an activity in your free time or block out a time period that’s for you to relax and enjoy yourself – it can even be as simple as not checking work emails when you’re at home
- Asking friends and family if they feel you dedicate too much time to one or the other.
What are the benefits of work-life balance?
Your health and wellbeing will improve
Overworking isn’t just putting you at risk of being a ‘very dull boy/girl’ – it could also be affecting your health.
In fact, if you’re sacrificing too much of your time for the sake of work, it won’t take long to start feeling the consequences – whether it’s through increased stress, constant bouts of illnesses due to a weakened immune system, or non-stop exhaustion.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop working hard though. Many professions require a lot of time and effort, and sometimes large amounts of downtime just isn’t possible if you’re determined to do well. But it’s all about finding that balance.
By recognising your own individual triggers and understanding when you’re overdoing it, you’ll be able to recognise the early warning signs before you start burning out.
You’ll be more productive
Having a healthy work-life balance isn’t just essential to your well-being – it also boosts your productivity.
From finally getting around to redecorating the house because you switched off your work phone for the weekend, to completing a work task you’ve been stuck on for weeks after being able to go back to it with a fresh mindset – creating a good balance between your work life and your personal life will allow you to be more productive in both areas.
And work-life balance doesn’t always refer to a solid line between work and play.
Whether it’s by working from home when you need quiet space for a project, or dedicating time to group brainstorm sessions where collaboration is necessary – creating your own balance between team work and head-down work is equally essential to achieve productivity in all aspects of your job.
You’ll have more ‘you time’
It’s easy to make excuses when you rarely get free time.
And whether your devotion to overtime has meant you still haven’t taken that photography course you’ve been interested in for months, or working weekends has caused you to miss 99% of your yoga classes – you shouldn’t have to sacrifice that much of yourself to do a good job.
After all, work isn’t the only place you can learn and develop – and from quantifying your skillset with a qualification, to learning a new language, taking up a hobby, or even just reading a book – making the most of your time will add some much needed variation – and enjoyment – into your life.
So not only will improving your work-life balance give you more control over what you do, you’ll also be able to use your dedicated ‘you time’ to do things you’ve been putting off for years.
You’ll stop missing out
Those who overwork have one thing in common – and that’s that everything in their lives except work probably isn’t going as well as it could.
Common signs and symptoms include: always being the guy/girl who misses the best social gathering of the week, their anniversary, their child’s first word, or a really funny ‘you just had to be there’ moment – possibly involving their housemate, a dishwasher, and a family sized tub of vanilla yoghurt. But we digress…
Whether it’s by sticking to a nightly dinner with your partner or a weekly film night with your best friend, there’s always time to actually have a life outside of work.
Remember: achieving a good work-life balance often comes down to your own ability to prioritise according to what’s most important to you.