Achieving that all important work-life balance is something that we all crave, often struggle with, and many never manage. It is one of life’s annoyances that the more successful we get, the harder it is to juggle the job and one’s family life. It is though imperative to find that elusive balance. It is pointless being successful if the price of that success is to the detriment of one’s loved ones.
The importance of Work-Life Balance
First let’s fully understand what exactly it is that we mean by work-life balance. The old saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, has never rang more true that it does today. Work demands on some people place an intolerable strain on their personal relationships. In addition, not having time to pursue personal interests leads to a not very rounded personality.
Surprisingly it took a very long time for people to understand that not having time off from work is not a good idea for productivity. Following the industrial revolution unions around the globe fought long and hard to ensure that the workers got time off. Initially it was just one day per week, but this was then extended into the traditional weekend. Today, for many, it is slipping back. When manual workers take a day off, they are truly away from work and the connected pressures. However many middle managers are never fully disconnected from their office, thanks to modern technology; this is not good.
As hand held devices proliferated, the idea that one is always available has spread. It really is a good idea sometimes to simply turn your smartphone off. Even on flights nowadays one can still be reached. The idea of a phone ringing on a beach would have been laughed at a few years ago, now it’s commonplace.
Achieving a good work-life balance is not merely good for the employee, it is imperative for the good working and profitability of any business. Put simply, if your employees see their jobs as merely a chore that needs to be tolerated, the chances are that they will be working at nowhere near their productive best.
Add to this stress and all the related health issues around overworking, and it’s not hard to see the problems. A report by University College London showed that people who worked three or more hours longer than a normal, seven-hour day had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems, like death through heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks and angina.
5 challenges to Achieving Work-Life Balance
Not everyone has the same expectation of just what a healthy work-life balance is. Just because you are managing to get home for dinner with your family by 6.30pm every evening, does not mean you are achieving it. If you are working 6 days per week and your kids are in bed by 7.00pm, you are not spending much time with them. This is especially true if a large portion of your Sundays are spent in bed because you are so tired.
Hours spent at your desk do not equate to work done. There is no system of measuring this, only in the long run, can success or failure be noticed. Being tired at one’s desk is often less productive than being away from it.
3. Transient by Nature
As your personal life changes so does your work-life balance. This can happen slowly and the changes are almost imperceivable. From single, to married, to parent is often a gradual change; with it comes gradual changes in what you should be achieving. Of course your desire to provide for your family is a driving factor, but enjoying your family should be the primary one.
4. Work Should be Viewed as Part of Life
Your working life is not a separate entity to the rest of your life. Achieve a good work-life balance and you will view the hours spent at work just as good as time spent away, and vice versa. By spending enjoyable time away from your office, the hours spent in it will seem more enjoyable also. Work colleagues often become our best friends.
5. Those Unforeseen “Unmissables"
It is easy to see every important meeting as absolutely essential, when in truth many are not. All too often an unforeseen issue that arises at 5.00pm could be shelved overnight and dealt with in the morning. Once you start dealing with everything immediately, the clock starts ticking and your personal time starts eroding.
6 Tips to Start Achieving Your Work-Life Balance
1. To Do Lists
This sounds too simple to work, surely? Not at all. So many people take the scatter gun approach to their daily work load, this is rarely efficient. By starting each day with a list of achievable goals, your time will become more manageable and by definition less stressful.
2. Don’t be a Slave to Your Email
With the proliferation of hand held devices it is easy to slip into the “always available” mode. Very few emails are so important that they cannot wait for a few hours or even overnight. Once people know that you are simply not available when at home with your family, you will be amazed how those “imperative issues” become less and less frequent.
3. The End of Your Working Day Means Just That
Decide on what time your working day ends and stick to it. Learn to switch off fully when you leave the office. Time spent with your family is not productive if your head is still in the office. You will value your family more, and they will certainly value you more.
4. Design and Develop Your Workspace
If it is possible for you to do some work away from the office then do it. As a writer, I could spend all my time at home, but I prefer to move to different coffee bars to work. It is amazing what a change of scenery can do to your productivity. A room with a view is a tremendous fillip to one’s mood.
5. Learn to Switch Off
When you are with family or friends, try and forget about the job. There is nothing worse than someone who constantly talks about what they do for a living. What is interesting to you about your work, is probably not to everyone else. So stop it!
6. Don’t be Afraid to Say No.
Sometimes it is simply too difficult for some people to refuse to do something. This clearly is not a healthy position in which to find oneself. As long as you are confident that you are pulling your weight, then don’t be scared of refusing to do extra work. Sometimes no must mean no.
Take a Moment to learn From Others
The excellent TED Talks provide some superb guidelines for us all to follow and achieve a better work-life balance. Check out what time management expert Laura Vanderkam has to say on the issue here.
Travel writer Pico Iyer offers an incredible insight into getting one’s head in the right place. His talk on Stillness is a real eye opener. It is interesting that many people feel as though they are working longer hours than they were years ago, when in fact they are working less. In other words, perception here is extremely important.
It is remarkable just how some people find work-life balance so easy to achieve, whilst others find it so hard.
Achieving a good work-life balance is not as difficult as many imagine. It just takes a little thought. Be organised and plan ahead. The benefits will see you enjoying your life to the fullest whilst achieving greater productivity in your career. You will feel better valued both at home and at work, and that has to be the goal for all of us.