Are you feeling stressed or overburdened at work and at home? Sometimes it’s easy to feel trapped if you can’t find an escape from the office since you need to meet all the commitments of your personal life, too. The trick to managing it all is to find a state of equilibrium in your life – what’s known as a work-life balance.
It may sound like a math problem, but it’s really about looking inward and understanding what causes you stress or joy in your life. It’s also about trusting yourself to change your schedule for the better.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a good idea of how to tip the scales in your favor and set an appropriate work-life balance for yourself.
What is a work-life balance?
Work-life balance – it’s a term that gets thrown around lots. What does it really mean? It commonly gets interpreted as a tradeoff between your labour and leisure. It’s all about finding the right allocation between life at work and life at home.
You only get 168 hours in your seven day week. A good portion of that is spent asleep. How do you want to spend your waking hours? At home with your family, friends or enjoying your favorite hobbies? Or would you rather be at the office, returning emails and drafting memos that can probably wait until next Monday?
The ideal work-life balance differs between people. To some entrepreneurs, a busy day is what motivates and fuels them. For others, enjoying their down time is the ultimate priority.
To find your ideal balance of work and life, try doing an inventory of all your weekly tasks and errands. Also note down what brings you joy and what causes stress. The difficult part is to find a balance between removing or finding alternatives for the stressful parts while freeing up time to accomplish your goals and feel happy.
You hit your state of equilibrium when you can meet all your commitments and feel satisfied both at work and at home. That’s easier said than done.
What’s wrong with corporate culture?
One of the biggest problems facing the corporate world is how its culture has evolved over the decades. You probably have an image in your head of an overworked journalist rolling up her sleeves and staying at the office well past closing time. It’s a picture that is perpetuated in pop culture, the media and in workplaces around the world.
Or, maybe you’ve lived the experience yourself. The culture of many business environments seems to imply that you should work yourself into the ground to succeed. But does putting in more hours at work really help you get more done and stay ahead of your competitors?
Some studies say “no.” One of them, done by Stanford University researcher John Pencavel found that your productivity takes a sharp drop after a 50 hour work week.
Are there any ways that doing less in your work week can actually serve you better? If you find yourself working 50-plus hours per week, you may want to ask yourself if it’s worth it. Are you truly being the most productive that you can be?
What are the consequences of a bad work-life balance?
Not only does your workplace productivity drop if you start overloading your work schedule, but you can experience other negative effects in your work and home life.
Employees who experience a bad work-life balance tend to take more sick days. Many of them might actually be warranted – chronic stress, arising from being overworked on the job, can make you more vulnerable to getting sick or getting injured.
And, overworked employees don’t tend to work as long for employers as happy ones. If you’re an employer, make sure to treat your employees right and understand their states of balance in order to boost employee retention.
How to tip the scale as an employee
Here are some life hacks to help you find a better balance in your life:
- Re-think your schedule. Try reducing clutter in your weekly schedule by delegating efficiently mundane errands such as getting groceries shipped to your house. Also, try to add positive leisure activities into your routines such as recreational sports or social events.
- Set manageable goals. Even simple tricks like trying to leave the office earlier once or twice per week can go a long way. Business coaches can be a great help with this if you don’t know where to start.
- Unplug your devices. Some studies have found that 35 per cent of workers attribute the internet, cell phones and emails to their increased hours. Not being able to disconnect is one of the early symptoms of workplace burnout. Sometimes it’s okay to detach from your workplace – try disconnecting.
- Understand your entitlements and perks. It’s your responsibility to understand your company’s employee assistance program. It may help you find a daycare for your kids or offer you support to manage stress.
- Ask for flexibility. If you feel overburdened at work, try asking for assistance or some flexibility to fit your work life around your home life. Many employers are willing to make adjustments to schedules in order to accommodate and empower their employees.
How to tip the scale as an employer
If you’re an employer, there are lots of things you can do to help improve the work-life balance of your employees.
For starters, try improving your employee assistance programs. The most innovative ones offer flexible working hours and can make unique arrangements to meet the needs of your employees. For instance, for employees with disabilities or impairments, adding accessibility measures at the office can help make working hours more enjoyable. Doing so can tip the work-life balance in a positive direction.
You’ll also want to lead by example. Figure out the ideal hours you want your employees to work and then show them how to do it. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to lead the way.
You can also try to implement flexible working arrangements. Letting your employees work from home, for example, can help them meet the responsibilities of childcare while still managing their workloads. Remote working arrangements don’t have to be full-time commitments, either. Allowing employees to work from home even a few times per week can make a big difference.
Sometimes, setting up the physical space of your workplace can help improve work-life balance. Consider an office layout that incorporates open space, which can be motivational and inviting. Be sure to also include other places dedicated to quiet time, which can boost employee focus and productivity. Making employees feel comfortable at work can help reduce their feeling of isolation while being away from their homes.
Lastly, try to get your employees together for team-based activities. These can go a long way to improve morale in your workplace and allow your teams to get to know one another. If you’re really feeling creative, you can see if anyone is interested in a workplace volunteering opportunity, A feel-good activity, away from the office, can help employees feel accomplished and lessen the negative thoughts associated with being at work.
Looking for more advice on achieving the ultimate work-life balance? Check out 7 things you can learn from a business coach. It has lots of good content about how you can improve yourself, expand your mind and upskill in your career. Book a 15-minute discovery call with one of our business coaches today to get personalised advice for your business.