Work-life balance is not a new concept, and the need to strike a healthy balance between work and personal life has been around for as long as people have had jobs. However, in recent years this topic has become much more prominent as employees demand more flexibility and companies are forced to adapt to keep their workforce happy. Work-life balance is about striking a healthy balance between your personal and professional lives so that neither negatively affects the other.
It’s about making time for friends and family outside of work and not letting your job take over your life so that you no longer have a life outside of work. Depending on which study you read, the average employee only has about 2-3 hours of free time each day outside of sleeping, eating, and commuting. Humans require downtime to refresh our minds, organize our thoughts, and recover from stressful situations. Without it, we feel anxious, stressed out, miserable, unbalanced, and unable to cope with everyday stresses in our lives — i.e., work!
What is a healthy work-life balance?
A healthy work-life balance is a point at which you feel like you are giving each part of your life enough attention without feeling stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, it can be challenging to achieve because there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone has different circumstances: additional hours they work, different priorities, and different commitments outside of work. Each person also has a different amount of mental energy to devote to each part of their life on any given day. Some days you may have a lot of energy and be able to accomplish more than usual. Other times you may find yourself less capable of completing tasks, possibly because of the stress you are experiencing at the time.
Why is work-life balance so important?
Although work-life balance seems like a luxury that only the lucky few can achieve, everyone can benefit from trying to achieve it. First, employees who feel like their work is dominating their life are less likely to be satisfied with their job. This can cause employees to become more likely to leave their jobs or take less pride in their work because they feel like they’re doing it under less than ideal conditions. On the other hand, employees who have a healthy balance between their work and personal lives are more likely to be happy and satisfied with their job, which leads to excellent retention rates and a more productive team.
Signs your work-life balance needs a reset
If you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed by work, you may have let work-life balance slip out of your control. If this is the case, you may notice some of the following signs:
You stop taking care of yourself
When you're working too much, it can be hard to make time for self-care — but that doesn't mean it isn't essential. If you neglect things like exercise or eating well because you're too busy at work, it could be a sign that your priorities are out of whack.
Your mental health is going downhill.
You might think that working more hours would improve your mental health — and sometimes it does — but only if you're doing something meaningful with those extra hours. If all you're doing is making more money at a job that isn't fulfilling or meaningful, then you may be better off spending less time on the job and more time getting outside help for any issues you may have with depression or anxiety.
You feel incompetent
Like most people, your self-esteem takes a hit when you're overworked and underpaid. If you feel incompetent at work, it's time to take a step back and evaluate your situation. If you're not getting paid what you deserve for the work you do, consider looking for another job or negotiating your salary with your current employer.
You just don't care anymore.
When you're working too much, it's easy to lose sight of why you got into this line of work in the first place. If you find yourself in this situation, take a step back and reflect on how much time you've spent at work lately compared to what other things could be occupying that time — especially if those things are more fulfilling or productive than what you're doing right now.
Tips for achieving a healthy work-life balance
The easiest way to begin improving your work-life balance is to look honestly at how much time you’re spending on each part of your life and see if any areas could use some improvement. Here are some suggestions for improving your work-life balance:
Put physical distance between your work and home lives
The best way to achieve a healthy work-life balance is to separate the two physically. Keep your work and personal lives in two separate locations if you can. This may not be possible for everyone, but when possible, try it out.
Disconnect when you are at home
Try turning off your phone and computer when you're at home. Being present with your family when they are is essential, so don't check email or Facebook while hanging out with them. When you sit down to work, make sure your phone is out of reach and silence notifications on your computer so that you don't get distracted by incoming messages.
Be more efficient at work
If you have too many meetings throughout the day or a very inefficient schedule, then it's likely that you're wasting time at work and not getting as much done as possible. It's essential to be efficient at work because this will free up more time for family and personal activities.
It's easy to neglect our needs when we're busy or stressed out, but taking time for yourself is essential to staying happy and healthy. Take time each day for activities that relax you, whether going for a walk, meditating, or reading a book. If your schedule allows, take a vacation at least once per year.
Look for a new job
If your job is too demanding, look into other options. It's possible that with less responsibility or more flexibility in your work schedule, you can achieve the work-life balance you want without switching careers entirely.
Get professional help
Sometimes achieving a healthy work-life balance requires more than just changing your habits and finding new opportunities — it might require counseling or medication. For example, if depression or anxiety affects how you function at work and home, talk to your doctor about treatment options like therapy or medication.
Work-life balance is an essential topic for employees at every level and in every type of job. It can be challenging to achieve, but it’s also something that can be improved with a little bit of effort. Start by taking an honest look at how much time you’re spending on each part of your life and see if any areas could use some improvement. Then, make adjustments to your daily schedule so you’re spending more time on the things you want to spend more on and less time on the things you can afford to cut back on.