Work-life balancing act

Juggling a professional and personal life can be tricky. Here are six steps to help you on your way to equilibrium
by Bethan Rees

Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. This is a trap that many people find themselves stuck in. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

According to Randstad employer brand research 2017: global report, after an attractive salary and long-term job security (58% and 46% respectively), 45% of employees cite good work-life balance as an important attribute in gauging the attractiveness of an organisation. 

A good work-life balance is individual, and it doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split. It’s about finding a schedule and routine that works for you. It might also change day-to-day – what works for you on a Monday could be very different to Friday. 

It’s important to get this balancing act right. Symptoms of an imbalance in this area can be as simple as feeling unfocused and cranky, but that might just be the start of a larger issue; for example, work-related stress, anxiety or depression, which accounts for 12.5 million lost days of work, according to the Health and Safety Executive’s Work-related stress, depression or anxiety statistics in Great Britain 2017

If this all sounds too familiar, try following these six steps. 
1) Take personal responsibility If you feel that work demands are too much, or that you have been given too much to do, then tell your boss or line manager. Speak up. Don’t suffer in silence. Employers won’t be able to address areas of pressure if they are not identified. You could also be helping another employee who is too nervous to speak their mind. It may be helpful to back up your claim by creating a spreadsheet that lists the jobs you are working on, together with the estimated time to complete each task. 
2) Work smart, not longWorking longer does not necessarily mean you are harder working than anyone else. Using your time efficiently at work can cut your working, or over-working, hours dramatically. Prioritise, focus and structure your day. Identify where you waste time. Apps such as RescueTime, that track and calculate time spent on applications or websites can be useful.
3) Take a break Our brains are not wired to sit at a desk for eight hours straight, concentrating the entire time. However, there is a fix for a lack of concentration – a break. Alejandro Lleras, a psychology professor at the University of Iliinois, explains in his paper Brief and rare mental 'breaks' keep you focused: deactivation and reactivation of task goals pre-empt vigilance decrements that purposefully stopping and starting (rather than just being distracted) through your tasks will help you focus on completing your objectives. Take a walk when you can. Walking increases blood flow to the brain and can enhance cognitive performance. Also, make sure you eat your lunch away from your desk.  
4) Find your spaceIf you do take work home, or work from home, make sure any business is done in a specific space, not the same place as you find yourself relaxing after a long day. Avoid working from your bed, or your sofa in front of the TV, as your brain will then associate these places as a place of work, and you may find you are still in ‘work mode’ after hours. 
5) Have a hobby Yoga and meditation have obvious mindful benefits, but if those aren’t to your liking, there are plenty other stress-relieving activities you can partake in. Join a local sports team, find yourself an allotment, write a journal, go to a dance class, start a supper club with your friends – the options are limitless. 
6) Digital switch off Do you have any work-life balance tips? Share them in the comments If work allows you to (ie, you’re not ‘on-call’), don’t check your emails outside of work hours. From 1 January 2017, French workers have had the ‘right to disconnect’ as France seeks to establish agreements that afford work flexibility but avoid burnout – which includes no out-of-hours email checking. A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development of 2,000 UK employees finds that nearly a fifth of employees feel like they are under surveillance while working remotely, while 17% say it makes them feel anxious or impacts their quality of sleep. Take your health into consideration, and switch off.   

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Published: 26 Jan 2018
  • Career Development
  • The Review
  • Young Professionals Network
  • Time management

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