‘Work-life balance’ is a phrase you probably hear often – and it describes a goal that anyone who’s ever been employed relates to. Because, let’s face it, there’s more to life than work, no matter how rewarding your job or career.
Yet genuine work-life balance might seem impractical or even fantasy. A culture where ‘working hard’ is often promoted as the best path to success doesn’t always leave room to achieve other needs and goals. And then there's the obvious issue that not everyone can financially afford to cut back on working hours.
Juggling the need to earn money and filling a desire to have non-work interests, activities and commitments is challenging. Perfect work-life balance probably doesn’t exist – what it looks like largely depends on what suits you and those close to you.
Ideally your professional and personal life should support and strengthen one another. Whether for family, study, hobbies, fun, socialising or relaxation, having time and energy to focus on activities you enjoy and your relationships is crucial for your wellbeing. It sounds obvious but creating a true separation between work and home life is likely to reduce the stress of one area impacting the other –even small changes to work arrangements can make a big difference.
Maybe it’s possible to work from home sometimes, or to adjust your hours to be able to spend more time with family or pursue other interests. Having an open and honest chat with your team – along with partners and family members – can go a long way to improving your work-life balance.
If working overtime becomes the norm rather than the exception, or you need more flexibility, chat with your manager or supervisor about your concerns. Assuming they’re human, they should get where you’re coming from.
Leaving work ‘on time’ isn’t always possible. Busy periods, tight deadlines or spells of intense activity can lead you to feel the need to go beyond standard hours. Working for longer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive – sometimes you may want to say ‘no’ to certain requests, and that’s ok. Pre-planning activities for after work can be a good way to be better organised to leave on time.
Don’t rely on days off or periods of annual leave from a demanding job to refresh yourself – take regular breaks during work hours. Whether it’s getting fresh air at lunchtime or moving around your workplace every hour or so, this will improve your wellbeing and help you stay focused and productive.
Satisfying downtime (away from work) is a sure-fire way to feel like you’re achieving a healthy balance. Limit the amount of work you do at home – including responding to phone calls, texts and emails. Successfully switching on and off from work will help you de-stress and sleep better.
Finding the right balance between professional and personal satisfaction is tricky. If you’re a high achiever, stay mindful of how much time and energy you put into work. Take care of yourself and consider the benefits of some of that effort being spread elsewhere.
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