We have all heard the phrase ‘work-life balance’, but can we honestly say that we are following this advice, or are we still falling short of a healthy mix of work and free time?
It’s easy to talk about striking a work-life balance, but in reality it can be quite difficult to implement effectively. This is particularly true in today’s world of work, where technology and flexible working means that we are always contactable, and always able to be working remotely. This makes it very difficult to actually switch off from work, and form strict boundaries between home and work life. So how do we know when work has taken over our life? And what can we do to re-evaluate the situation and get our lives back on track?
Tell-tale signs that would indicate that you have let work encroach into your personal life
Work has taken over when…
- you are regularly working more than 10 hours a day
- you are constantly checking your work email in the evenings and at weekends
- you are never able to get through your workload, however hard you work
- you are always feeling tired when you get home, from the physical and emotional drain of your workload
- you feel you need regular fixes of sugar, caffeine or nicotine to get you through the day
Even if you really love your job and you enjoy your place of work, it is essential to strike a healthy balance between work and personal time. This proved particularly challenging for one employee of the technology giant Google, who actually lived on campus for over a year! Google’s headquarters in Mountain View offers employees such fantastic perks and benefits, so it perhaps shouldn’t have come as a surprise when a couple of employees opted out of renting, and chose to make Google HQ their permanent address. However, in the case of former Google employee, Matthew Weaver, he found that there was in fact a downside to living on campus, which was that it was hard to keep a work-life balance. ‘Weaver estimates he worked 80-90 hour work weeks when he lived on campus, and basically just worked and slept during the week in that period.’
Even if you are happy with your employer and enjoy your place of work, there are downsides to allowing work to take over your life. So how can we take back control, and strike a better work-life balance? There are things that we can do that will help us redress the balance:
Manage your time
Look at workload and personal activities, and decide how you are going to manage them. Perhaps focus on an order of priority, and set yourself manageable targets, ensuring you allow enough time for your own personal activities as well.
Investigate your work options
Ask your employer about the possibility of flexible working such as: flex hours, a compressed work week, job sharing, telecommuting or other options. With more control over your work schedule the less stressed you are likely to be and, ultimately, the more
productive you’re going to be.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
If colleagues are asking you to take on extra workload, remember that it’s OK to politely decline, as long as you’re able to justify your workload and explain why you feel you’d be unable to successfully complete the additional tasks. In the case of your manager asking you to complete various tasks at once, with impossible deadlines, then ask them to prioritise the tasks. This way you know which needs to be completed first, and you can then set their expectations on when you will be able to complete the remaining tasks.
Leave work at work
As already discussed, today’s technology enables us to connect to our work at any time, from virtually anywhere, which means you won’t have a clearly defined boundary between work and home — unless you create it. It is up to you to separate work time from personal time, and it is important that you try to do this, especially when you’re with your family – keep your laptop and work phone in your briefcase.
Take care of yourself
It is important to ensure we have a healthy routine for ourselves, including getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and taking regular physical exercise. Set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as swimming or reading. Try new activities with friends or family, or, better yet, learn new skills — such as yoga, dancing or taking cooking classes.