How many days a week do you stay back late? Sometimes leaving work on time isn’t always possible, especially when you’re juggling tight deadlines. But if you’re working late on a regular basis it may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate your work-life balance.

Working overtime is common practice in our society, with many people in Australia working an average of six hours’ unpaid overtime a week, according to a survey conducted late last year by The Australia Institute.

The detrimental effects of excessive overtime on both our physical and mental health are considerable. It can increase fatigue and stress, while decreasing wellbeing and quality sleep. It can also place a strain on our relationships both in and outside of work. If left unchecked, an unhealthy work-life balance can result in complete burn out.

Two stressed employees arguing

Research shows that working more than 48 hours a week is linked with significant declines in productivity, more errors, and an increased risk of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Go Home on Time Day reminds us of the importance of looking after our mental health and wellbeing at work. Think about your average working day ­– perhaps it’s time to make a few changes?

Working within your core hours and taking regular breaks can actually help you be more productive at work. You’ll likely adopt better work practices, get better at saying no and managing your time.

Feeling better equipped to tackle life’s challenges is another upside to a better work-life balance. You’re also more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices and build and maintain healthy relationships.

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Beyond leaving work on time, there are several things you can do to improve your work-life balance.

Plan ahead

Schedule meetings during core work hours and avoid taking work home with you. If you’re working from home or are self-employed, try to establish and stick to your normal working day so that it doesn’t interfere with your home life.

Take a break

Whether it be your lunch break or your annual leave, taking some time out to reset can help increase productivity and reduce work-related stress, which in turn lowers the risk of anxiety and depression. Don’t have time? Make time. Block out 10-or-20-minute breaks in your calendar to take a break and step away from whatever you’re working on.

In terms of a proper break, try to plan extended holidays a few months in advance. This will allow everyone time to plan for your absence, so you don’t wind up checking in with work when you’re meant to be on holiday.

Set realistic deadlines

We all know the feeling of getting to the end of the day and seeing you haven’t checked everything off your list. Avoid that disappointment by splitting up tasks and setting achievable goals for the day ahead.

Just say no

It’s OK to say no. In fact, many would argue we don’t say it often enough. Giving yourself the option to turn work down can help manage your workload, so you don’t end up with too much on your plate.

Switch off

Take time away from your phone or computer. Consider not having your work emails connected to your phone, or at least turn off work-related notifications. When you’re not working, do things that energise you and bring you joy – and try not think about work!

Be flexible

If you’re finding that your working hours are not fitting into your everyday life, explore your options. Laws exist to support employees who meet certain criteria. This could mean working an hour earlier so you can leave earlier to pick up your children.

Or look into working from home at least one day a week. The uplift in wellbeing and productivity makes this an increasingly popular move, both for both employees and employers.

On this Go Home on Time day, as well as going home on time, think about how you can improve your work-life balance and make some key changes. 

Related reading: Keep your stress bucket from overflowing

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