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
Why would my employer encourage this balance?
There are as many benefits for companies to encourage a work/life balance as there are for you.
- A happy workforce results in increased productivity for a company
- Should an employee leave the company due to being overworked, there are the costs
- For companies to compete against other companies, a range of flexible working options are often used to entice potential employees