How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance

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Often, work takes precedence over everything else in our lives. Our desire to succeed professionally can push us to set aside our own well-being. Creating a harmonious work-life balance or work-life integration is critical, though, to improve not only our physical, emotional and mental well-being, but also to succeed in our career.

What does work-life balance mean

In simple terms, work-life balance means finding a balance between your career and personal life. Many people aim for this balance, but it’s not always easy to achieve. Several common factors that can disrupt work-life balance include:

  • Increased work responsibilities
  • Longer working hours
  • Added responsibilities at home
  • Parenthood

It’s essential to strive for a healthy equilibrium between your personal and professional life. As per Chris Chancey, a career expert and CEO of Amplio Recruiting, a good work-life balance offers several benefits, such as reducing stress, lowering the risk of burnout, and promoting overall well-being. This is advantageous for both employees and employers.

Employers who actively support work-life balance can save on costs, reduce absenteeism, and enjoy a more loyal and productive workforce,” Chancey suggests. Employers can help their employees achieve better work-life balance by offering options like telecommuting or flexible work schedules.

Why is work-life balance so important ?

Similar to how a varied diet is needed for good health and energy in the long run, people also require a variety of activities and rest for a healthy work-life balance. It is a common misconception that we can remain productive all the time, or that working for eight hours automatically translates to eight hours of output. However, it is difficult for most individuals to achieve this and can lead to negative consequences for both employees and employers. Overworking can lead to burnout, fatigue, and stress-related health issues. Individuals who struggle to practice self-care and workaholics are at a higher risk of these issues. In addition, a poor work-life balance can result in employees working more but producing less. Therefore, it is vital to engage in various activities and take adequate rest to stay energized and maintain productivity.

What is an unhealthy work-life balance?

An unhealthy work-life balance occurs when work becomes overwhelming and takes precedence over personal life, leading to negative consequences for well-being. Here are some signs that indicate an unhealthy work-life balance:

  • Constant overwork: Regularly working long hours, including weekends and holidays, without sufficient time for rest, relaxation, or personal activities.
  • Neglected personal life: Sacrificing personal relationships, hobbies, and leisure activities due to excessive work demands.
  • Burnout: Experiencing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion due to chronic stress and work-related pressure.
  • Lack of self-care: Failing to prioritize self-care activities, such as exercise, adequate sleep, and leisure time, resulting in deteriorating physical and mental health.
  • Strained relationships: Experiencing difficulties in maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones due to work-related commitments.

Remember, achieving a healthy work-life balance varies for each individual based on their circumstances and preferences. It’s crucial to find a balance that works for you and promotes your overall well-being.

How can you improve work-life balance?

In order to improve your work-life balance, it’s crucial to make a conscious effort to determine the best way to allocate your time efficiently, both at work and at home. Rather than just dividing your hours equally between work and personal life, it is more about having the flexibility to get your work done in a manner that still allows you to enjoy your personal life and pursue other activities. This means that some days you may have to work longer hours, in order to have more free time later in the week. Understanding your priorities & setting achievable, realistic goals is key. These tips can guide you in creating a better work-life balance.

1. Accept that there is no ‘perfect’ work-life balance.

Accept that achieving a ‘perfect’ work-life balance is not always possible. Instead of aiming for an ideal daily routine where you’re super productive at work and spend ample time with family and friends, aim for a realistic one. Some days, work might take precedence, while on other days, you’ll have more time for hobbies and loved ones. Balance comes over time, not necessarily each day.

According to Heather Monahan, a bestselling author and founder of the career mentoring group Boss In Heels, it’s important to stay flexible and regularly assess your goals and priorities. There will be days when your family needs you, and other days when work requires your attention. Being open to adjusting and evaluating your needs on any given day is key to finding balance.

2. Find a job that you love.

Try to pursue a career that you enjoy. Even though work is anticipated in our society, your occupation should not make you miserable. If you despise your job, you will not be content, plain, and simple. You do not necessarily have to be fond of every aspect of your job, but it should be stimulating enough for you not to fear getting up every morning.

Monahan suggests searching for a career that you are so enthusiastic about that you would perform it without compensation. Monahan said, “If your job is draining you, and it’s becoming challenging to do the things you love outside of work, it’s a sign that something isn’t right. It may be due to working in a poisonous environment or with a toxic person, or maybe it’s just a job you don’t enjoy. If that’s the case, then it’s high time to go in search of a new job.

3. Prioritize your health.

Your well-being should be your top priority, encompassing your physical, emotional, and mental health. If you’re dealing with anxiety or depression and believe therapy would be beneficial, make time for those sessions, even if it means leaving work early or skipping your evening spin class. When facing a chronic illness, don’t hesitate to take a sick day on difficult days. Pushing yourself too hard hinders your recovery and may result in more time off in the future.

According to Monahan, By prioritizing your health above all else, you’ll become a better employee and person. You’ll experience fewer absences from work and be happier and more productive when you’re there.

Prioritizing your health doesn’t require extreme measures. It can be as simple as incorporating daily meditation or exercise into your routine.

4. Don’t be afraid to unplug.

As humans, we need to disconnect from the outside world occasionally to recover from weekly stress and allow new ideas to surface. Unplugging doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; it can be as simple as practicing transit meditation during your daily commute instead of checking work emails.

Monahan shared an anecdote from her past, where she used to travel with her boss for work. She would often find herself doing work-related tasks while her boss would read a novel. It wasn’t until later that she realized he was giving himself a break and decompressing, while she was pushing herself towards burnout.

Now, Monahan follows the same approach and emphasizes the importance of taking breaks to unwind. She believes it is critical to success and leads to increased energy and productivity when you’re back on the clock.

5. Take a vacation

A study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association revealed that 55% of employees have unused vacation days at the end of the year. Many employees worry that taking time off will disrupt their workflow and result in a pile of work when they return. However, it’s crucial to remember that the benefits of taking time off outweigh any potential downsides. By planning ahead and communicating with your colleagues, you can enjoy your vacation without burdening others or overwhelming yourself with a heavy workload upon your return.

Taking a vacation is essential for truly disconnecting from work and allowing yourself to recharge both physically and mentally. Whether it’s a short staycation or a longer trip, it’s important to use your vacation days to prioritize your well-being.

6. Make time for yourself and your loved ones.

Although your job is significant, it should not consume your entire life. You are an individual with your own hobbies and activities that bring you joy, and it is crucial to prioritize them. Achieving work-life balance involves intentional effort. You have control over your time and life, even with a hectic schedule. When planning to spend time with loved ones, create a calendar for romantic and family dates. While it may seem strange to schedule one-on-one time with someone you live with, it guarantees quality time without work-life conflict. It is valuable to realize that the love and appreciation you receive from your loved ones will not be matched by anyone at work. Moreover, everyone at work is replaceable, and despite the importance of your job, the company will move on without you.

7. Set boundaries and work hours

Create and maintain well-defined work boundaries and set specific work hours to safeguard against burnout. After leaving the office, make a conscious effort to detach from upcoming projects and resist the urge to respond to work emails. If feasible, use a dedicated device for work, or alternatively, employ separate browsers, emails, or filters for your professional and personal tasks.

Furthermore, following Chancey’s advice, establish clear and predetermined work hours. Regardless of whether you work on-site or remotely, it’s crucial to establish a clear distinction between work time and personal time. Chancey emphasizes the importance of informing your team and manager about your boundaries, clarifying moments when you won’t be accessible due to personal commitments. This proactive communication ensures mutual understanding, respect for your work-life balance, and prevents the development of unrealistic expectations.

8. Work with a coach or therapist

Consider engaging with a professional coach or therapist if you find yourself overwhelmed, stuck, or unsure of where to begin in achieving a healthier work-life balance. The guidance of a skilled coach or counselor can prove invaluable, as they adeptly pose pertinent questions and assist you in pinpointing the most impactful changes and how to initiate them.

It’s important to heed the advice of starting small. While the desire for immediate improvement is natural, transforming ingrained work habits takes time. For instance, if your objective is to reduce screen time, attempting to abruptly limit yourself to a specific number of hours may lead to frustration. Initiating change with a more achievable goal, such as incorporating one five-minute tech-free break daily, enhances the likelihood of successfully adopting a new habit over time.

Find and maintain a healthy work-life balance

Recognizing that none of us possess superhuman abilities, pushing ourselves to give 200 percent at work often results in neglecting other vital aspects of our lives. While professional success is undoubtedly significant, it’s crucial to acknowledge that we only have one life to live. Sacrificing our personal lives or compromising our health for professional advancement is not a sustainable approach.

The key to leading a fulfilling life, both at home and in the office, lies in achieving a healthy work-life balance. However, finding the right equilibrium is a personal journey, unique to each individual. This may involve taking breaks, negotiating a flexible schedule with your employer, or even exploring new job opportunities that better align with your needs. Take the time to reflect on what is necessary for you to attain a better work-life balance, and then take proactive steps to make it a reality.

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