Striking a balance between work and life away from the office is essential for living a healthy life and being more productive on the job. But, even though most of us know it’s a good idea to establish boundaries between work and home, the struggle is real.
It can be even more difficult to work a job that demands long hours. Today’s always-on digital technology makes it particularly challenging to disconnect from work altogether. And working from home can further blur the lines between personal and work life. Yet finding that balance is possible.
Working too much? Here’s why you need to make a change.
If you feel like your work-life equilibrium is a bit off, you’re not alone. Studies reveal that 66% of full-time employees in America do not have a work-life balance. And although we spend more than 50 hours weekly at work, we only enjoy 11.4 hours of the week on leisure and personal care. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Poor work-life balance can lead to many issues that can negatively affect your mental and physical wellbeing. The Mayo Clinic identifies these consequences:
When you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly might suffer, which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
Stress can worsen symptoms related to many medical conditions and put you at risk of substance misuse.
Lost time with friends and loved ones.
If you’re working too much, you might miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you feeling left out and might harm your relationships.
Experts at The Mayo Clinic advise setting limits and looking after yourself as the two most important things you can do to help navigate the balance between the demands of work and your personal life.
Actionable steps for striking a healthier work-life balance.
Summarized from Mental Health America, here are a few practical steps we can all take to reduce stress and achieve a healthy balance in our lives.
Set manageable goals each day.
Be realistic about workloads and deadlines. Make a “to-do” list, tackle important tasks first, and eliminate unessential ones. Ask for help when necessary.
Be efficient with your time at work.
When facing a big project, start by dividing it into smaller tasks. Complete the first one before moving on to the next. Upon each completion, give yourself small rewards—a five-minute break or a walk outside.
Ask for flexibility.
The pandemic has made work from home and telecommuting necessary in today’s business world. Ask your employer to work flexible hours or from home a day a week.
Small breaks at work—or on any project—can help clear your head and improve your ability to deal with stress and make good decisions.
Listen to your favorite music at work to improve concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, and stimulate creativity.
Be honest with colleagues or your boss when you feel you’re in a bind. Then, instead of complaining, suggest practical alternatives.
Give yourself a break.
No one’s perfect! Allow yourself to be human and just do the best you can.
Being “on” 24/7 can cause burnout. Make yourself available—especially if you’ve earned the right to “flex” your hours—but recognize the need for personal time, too.
Divide and conquer.
Make sure responsibilities at home are evenly distributed and clearly outlined—you’ll avoid confusion and problems later.
If you’re overscheduled with activities, learn to sayGet support. [H3] Chatting with friends and family can be essential to your success at home—or work—and can even improve your health.
Besides its well-known physical benefits, regular exercise reduces stress, depression, and anxiety and enables people to cope with adversity better. So, make time in your schedule for the gym or to take a walk during lunch.
Treat your body right.
Being in good shape physically increases your tolerance to stress and reduces sick days. Eat right, exercise, and get adequate rest.
Get help if you need it.
Don’t let stress stand in the way of your health and happiness. If you are persistently overwhelmed, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness—taking care of yourself is a sign of strength.
A healthy work/life balance is an attainable goal that rewards workers and businesses alike. Studies show that when workers are balanced and happy, they are more productive, take fewer sick days, and are more likely to stay in their jobs.
Be mindful that creating that work-life balance is an evolving process. As your family, interests, and work-life change, your everyday practices will, too. Set regular check-up times for yourself to examine your priorities and make modifications to your daily routines, as necessary, to keep on track.