What is work-life balance, and how can you achieve it?
Work-life balance is the state where a person chooses to equally prioritize the demands of work, career, business and the demands of their personal lives. Someone who lacks this balance has more work and home obligations, works longer hours and lacks personal time. Work-life balance is a key part of self-care when juggling the responsibilities of your workday, home life, and relationships with your family members and other loved ones.
Let’s take a deeper look at work-life balance, as well as some practical tips for improving it.
Work-life balance is often used to describe a trade-off. You balance the time spent on work projects versus time spent with family, friends, and personal interests.
It can also refer to the level of flexibility team members feel they have. Ask yourself this question. To what extent do work and personal priorities interfere with one another? And can you meet the need when it arises?
According to Gallup’s Women in America report, work-life balance encompasses everything that goes into a well-lived life. The report suggests that many women view life and work holistically. As a result, they look for employers who can encourage and support them as people, not just as employees.
The phrase work-life balance wasn’t coined until the 1980s. The women’s liberation movement used it to describe the challenges faced by working women with families.
With technology, many professional work environments and expectations have changed. The result: a more integrated, and gray area relationship between “work” and “personal” time making the concept of work-life balance so difficult when we try to establish (or reestablish) it for ourselves.
What are the benefits of having work-life balance?
The benefits of work-life balance are far-reaching and extend to both you and your company. Here are a few benefits of having a work-life balance.
Less health issues
According to the Mayo Clinic, overwork and long hours can have several consequences on people. These consequences can include:
Fatigue, which impacts focus and productivity. Your excellent reputation and work style can suffer if you’re making mistakes or forgetting commitments.
Poor health. This is a result of both stress and neglecting healthy habits. Stress can affect medical conditions and increases the possibility of substance misuse.
Negative impacts on relationships. This is due to neglect. This undermines one of your major support pillars as a social being.
Additionally, people who work three to four hours of overtime have a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems compared to those who don’t work overtime. Moreover, working any overtime is associated with poorer perceived general health.
Burnout is a form of mental exhaustion. It can be a sign that your health at work isn’t ideal. There’s a risk of burnout whenever the job environment and the employee don’t match. Here are a few job mismatches that research has identified as contributing to burnout.
Work overload: when job demands exceed human limits.
Too little control over work: due to rigid policies, micromanagement, or chaotic job conditions.
Values conflict: where the requirements of the job conflict with one’s personal principles and values.
When your work and life balance with one another is in harmony, burnout isn’t as much of a concern. However, depending on your work environment, overwork and burnout have the potential to creep back in if you don't pay attention.
Mindfulness is the ability to maintain your awareness and focus on what you’re doing at any given moment. However, achieving mindfulness can be difficult if you’re distracted by other obligations and concerns.
Mindfulness is also difficult when you’re expected to be multitasking at work.
You can achieve more mindfulness when you’re given the flexibility to manage your personal obligations while you accomplish your share of the workload. And, ensuring that you get the support of your team when you need it.
5 ways to improve your work-life balance
There is a lot of talk about work-life balance. But how do we achieve it?
Here are 5 practical ways to help improve your balance at work and at home.
1. Learn the power of “no”
Learning how to say no can be one of the hardest soft skills for anyone to learn and put into actual practice. But it’s one the most important parts of setting boundaries.
Ask yourself, what are the usual demands of your day? Then articulate and prioritize what you have on your to do list. It is beneficial to recognize that saying “no” to things that are less of a priority frees up time and energy to say “yes” and attend to other things that are important to you.
2. Breaks are important, Take one!
Breaks allow for one to take a breath, improve concentration and reduce stress. You can schedule 5, 10 or 15 minute breaks throughout your day or even a small 1 minute break to assist in collecting yourself in between tasks. As well, take your lunch break. Eating is essential to brain function and to combat fatigue. Set your calendar, send a note to your supervisor and take your lunch break away from your desk. Your body and mind will thank you for it later.
Many people are working from home so it is very important to build in these breaks. It is so easy to zone out and stay focused on our screens. MIT senior lecturer Robert Pozen recommends taking a break every 75–90 minutes for 15 minutes. This helps your brain to synthesize and retain learning.
3. Speak to your needs
The ability to initiate and have open, honest conversations about your needs, as well as the needs of your team can be most beneficial and lead to productive solutions. There are many options that one can look at to help create balance not just for you but for everyone you work with such as task sharing, coverage and flexible work schedules.
4. Set boundaries
Set and communicate your work hours to your team and clients so that you all have clear boundaries and expectations. This should include when you’ll work and when you won’t be available to respond. Ensure that you have alerts automated to send when you are offline with clear communication on when you will be able to respond and who to contact in your absence. Especially if there is a true emergency. While we need to implement boundaries, we also do not want to miss something critical either. Setting boundaries and adequate coverage is key to work-life balance.
5. Ask for help
Why do we feel so guilty asking for help? When did we inherit the superman/superwoman cape and decided that we had to save the world all by ourselves? If we take a deep look at this we will most likely see that there is a part of us that has always been thrusted into this role and feel that is a part of our identity. Well it is time to take the cape off and “ASK FOR HELP”. We are not in this world alone or on the job alone. Asking for help builds relationships and trust as well as a major key to balance of work and life.
Life is worth living and work is a part of your life. Have fun with it, enjoy it and most of all learn to balance it. Continue to assess how you are spending your time and how best to make the most out of your life, work included.
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