The Importance of a Healthy Work/Life Balance – and How to Achieve One!
Finding a healthy work/life balance isn’t always easy. With the rise of working from home, the line between work and home is often blurred, with many doing large amounts of overtime and checking their emails well into the night.
So, how can you achieve a healthy work/life balance? Here are our top tips.
What is a work/life balance?
A good work/life balance means that you have harmony between the different aspects of your life. It’s often used to describe a trade-off. You balance the time spent on work projects versus the time spent with family, friends, and personal interests. Work/life balance can also refer to the level of flexibility employees feel that they have.
Who is affected by a poor work/life balance?
A recent survey found that Australians work more hours than most people in other developed OECD countries – with less time to look after themselves. However, anyone can be affected by a negative work/life balance which can leave them feeling burnt out and stressed.
How poor work/life balance can affect you
A poor work/life balance can lead to a negative impact on both mental and physical health. There are certain aspects of work that can have a negative effect on mental health. Some of these factors include:
- Job stress (e.g., meeting deadlines, isolating work conditions, lack of support)
- Isolating working conditions
- Few rewards for effort
- Job insecurity
- Lack of control
Work/life balance and burnout
Some of these factors can cause significant stress on a person. While stress is a natural response, too much stress over a longer period can be physically and mentally draining. Chronic stress often leads to burnout, which is described as a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that can occur after a long period of excessive or stressful work.
Some key features of burnout include:
- Emotional exhaustion
- A feeling of detachment from work or becoming cynical
- Reduced efficiency
- Lacking a sense of achievement
It can also include compassion fatigue, where someone loses the emotional capacity to care about others. This can lead to someone feeling as though they are ‘going through the motions’ and can be a problem for those in frontline-working jobs whose compassion is integral for work.
Top tips for a better work/life balance
Finding a healthy work/life balance may require a bit of tweaking to suit your situation. Here are some ways to improve the balance between work and life.
Love your job
Working at a job you love is a great place to start! Working at a job you hate will make finding a healthy balance much harder. While it can be daunting to change careers, it’s one significant thing that can increase your overall happiness.
Want to know more? Read our blog: Am I in the Wrong Career or Going Through a Rough Patch?
Have some ‘unplugged’ time
Screens are slowly taking over our lives. Most of us look at our phones as soon as we wake up before heading into the office to stare at a computer screen for most of the day. Finally, we come home and watch television to unwind. Having notifications on your phone interrupts your time off and injects an undercurrent of stress into your system. When you’re not at work, take some time to step away from all screens. Turn your phone notifications off and use your non-screen time to reset and recharge.
This includes something many of us struggle with – learning to say ‘no’! Putting solid boundaries in place means you can avoid any unnecessary stress and manage your day. To start, you must first analyse the typical demands of your day and learn to articulate and prioritise what you have on your plate. If you’re someone who really struggles to say no, try and start small. You might say no to a phone call with a parent or friend or other smaller priorities that will free you up for other things that are important to you.
Nurture your relationships
Focus on putting your time into the relationships that mean the most to you. Nurturing these relationships not only feels good for you but strengthens your support system. Having good people around you can also help you build resilience and cope with stress. Be sure to switch your phone off and spend quality time with your loved ones.
Prioritise your health
This one might seem obvious, but it’s something many of us forget. Prioritising your health means ensuring you get a night of good quality sleep each night, fuelling your body with nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water. It also means seeing your doctor if things don’t feel quite right. If something feels off, it probably is. Get yourself checked out to ensure no underlying health issues need attention.
Indulge in self-care
Self-care is important – and no, cleaning the house while your kids are asleep does not count as self-care! Find something that you’re passionate about. Maybe you’re an avid reader or love going to the gym. It could also be something like meditation, baking, knitting or anything you like to do, not something you have to do. Carve out some time in the day, turn off all distractions and enjoy.
Take a break
This is something a lot of us are bad at – taking breaks. Whether it’s during the workday or outside of work, taking breaks is an important way to reset and recharge. Taking breaks also means having your allocated lunch break every day. How often have you found yourself saying, “I’m too busy to have a break”, and eating at your desk? Your lunch break is vital to ensure you’re ready to go for the second half of your day. More minor breaks throughout the day are also crucial. It’s recommended that you take a 15-minute break every 75-90 minutes. This will allow your brain to consolidate and retain learning. If you still think that’s too much, a 30-second microbreak can improve concentration, reduce stress, keep you feeling engaged and make your work feel more enjoyable.
Having a healthy work/life balance is crucial. This ensures you maintain each aspect of your life and decreases the risk of burning out. Whether working from home or in the office, it’s important to apply some of these ground rules as a base.