No matter how much you love your job, maintaining a work-life balance is essential to a healthy relationship with work. For Health and Wellbeing Week, ParkLife at Thorpe Park wanted to talk about how having a good work-life balance was not only important to wellbeing, but also had plenty of other benefits in both spheres of your life. Read on to find out what you could be missing out on if you aren’t striking that balance.
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance refers to the division of time and energy between your professional and personal life. A ‘good’ work-life balance is often thought of as one in which professional commitments don’t get in the way of a personal life, but exactly what that means will vary from person to person. For example, taking advantage of flexible working perks for some might mean starting work later so they can drop their kids at school, but for others it might be starting early on a Friday so they can set off early for a weekend break. Both are examples of fitting your personal life around work, but it’s not always that simple.
Work-life Balance means knowing when to work late to get this report sent off before the boss gets in the next morning, but it also means turning off your email notifications when you’re walking the dog or having dinner with your family. What will be expected of you will vary across industries and workplaces, so you’ll need to use different strategies depending on the perks of your position and responsibilities expected of you. Nonetheless, it is worth thinking about if you want to get the most out of your career and enjoy your free time to its fullest.
The benefits of finding the right work-life balance
So, what are you getting out of this? Reaching the right balance between your personal commitments and your job could have some serious benefits. As mentioned above, a good work-life balance is vital for your health and wellbeing. Skipping out on exercise because you’re overworked is going to affect your physical health and refusing to take a sick day even when you’re unwell will mean you get better slower. Having time to take care of yourself is necessary for your health and if work is taking up too much time, you might find that side of life slipping. In addition, your mental health could be suffering if you’re constantly thinking about work, especially if you have a stressful job. Switching off at the end of a busy day is key to combatting work worries. For some extra ideas, see our post on Self-Care Tips for Mental Health.
You’ll also find benefits in the workplace. Working late less often may actually lead to you getting more done. In fact, studies have shown that people who work less are more productive overall, so getting into a routine of mostly sticking to your working hours might see you getting positive feedback from your manager. Not only that, but you may find you enjoy your job more!
A proper work-life balance can help you develop in your personal life too. With more time and energy available to you, you can dedicate that to other things. Maybe you could turn an interest into a qualification and do a course at night school, or learn a new language you’ve always been interested in, or get back to an old hobby, or just use the extra time to do what makes you feel most relaxed. Just reading more is said to expand your horizons and make you a more well-rounded person. Personal development is equally as important and fulfilling as professional development, and actually may help your career progress, in the long run too.
Perhaps the most important benefit to work-life balance, however, is spending more time with loved ones. You’ll get more out of games night with your family if you’re able to give the evening your full attention. Being able to commit to a weekend trip to visit your old school or university friends will mean maintaining friendships with people you might otherwise lose touch with. The other people in your life will appreciate it too, especially if you’ve been the sort of person who in the past who skips out on the pub to wade through a few extra emails.
Some quick tips for finding the right balance
Below we’ve put together some quick tips for achieving the right work-life balance. Some are much easier said than done, but even managing to consistently do just one of them is sure to help you out in the long run!
Prioritise your time
Long to-do lists can be daunting! You can effectively prioritise your time by splitting out tasks into an urgent/important grid, which contains four categories;
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
Set specific goals
Take your list of prioritised tasks and turn them into concrete and measurable goals. You could even block time into your schedule to work on these things just like you would for a meeting or appointment.
The pandemic has thrown us all into a virtual world of Teams or Zoom calls – use them to your advantage and don’t travel to a meeting where you don’t have to. It will save you a lot of time and energy, not to mention saving you from sitting in traffic! If a meeting does have to be done in person, could you meet halfway, perhaps at a café or a restaurant?
Try setting fair and realistic limits on what you will and will not do, both at work and at home. What this looks like will vary for each person, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Clearly communicating these boundaries with the people around you will also help.
Know when to ask for help
If your work is causing undue stress because you’re over working, don’t suffer in silence. Explain your situation to your boss or supervisor, it might be that they aren’t aware of everything that is on your plate and solutions can usually be found to a difficult work situation. Similarly, if a balanced life continues to be a struggle for you or if you’re experiencing high levels of stress consistently, then don’t be afraid to talk with a professional.
Leave work at work (where possible)
At a time when many of us are working from home and have been doing so for some time now, this can be difficult to do. Try to develop a mental on-off switch between ‘work’ and ‘home’, even if these are two are the same place for now. This could be a transitional activity between the two realms, maybe previously this was listening to music or a podcast during your commute but perhaps now you could do this while taking a 10-minute walk at either side of your working day? Scheduling activities immediately following work can prevent you from spending hours of extra time at the office.
Nurture your family / relationships
Relationships with friends, family and loved ones really do help with overall life satisfaction. If your work is damaging your personal relationships then ultimately both areas will suffer. There may be days when you need to work over, but if this becomes the rule and not the exception then it will quickly become problematic.
It’s all about balance
Work is important to many of us, and it is great to have a job that inspires you to dedicate your time and energy to being the best you can be. But it’s not all there is to life, and finding the space in your day for personal commitments, hobbies, loved ones and “you-time” is a worthy endeavour that will work in your favour in the long run.
What is right for you now will likely change as your life and position in the work place change, causing new circumstances to arise, so feel free to periodically review your situation and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to make big changes all at once. Book in some annual leave and remember that you can probably deal with that email tomorrow morning, feeling refreshed, healthier and happier!