Have you heard of the term: “Work-life balance”?
Maintaining this is the goal of modern workplaces nowadays. It might seem counter-intuitive but studies show that supporting other aspects of employees’ lives besides work increases productivity. This is why companies now offer flexible work schedules and company-sponsored family events and activities, among others.
According to the Government of Canada, Work-life balance is a self-defined, self-determined state of well-being that a person can reach, or can set as a goal, that allows them to manage effectively multiple responsibilities at work, at home, and in their community; it supports physical, emotional, family, and community health, and does so without grief, stress or negative impact.
This means that the balance we are seeking is not necessarily a 50-50 division of time between work and personal life. Work-life balance depends on the individual. You, yourself have to define what it’s like to comfortably attend to work without having to sacrifice physical, emotional, family and community health.
Why do we need work-life balance?
There are many benefits to having this balance aside from increasing productivity. These include:
- Less stress leading to better health.
- Better health translates to better focus (and again, more productivity).
- Lower absenteeism.
- Improved morale and working relationships.
- Increased employee retention.
Ways to achieve work-life balance
- Keep reasonable hours at work
Whether it is to accommodate peak seasons (for example tax time for accountants) or to work on rush jobs, working overtime is part of professional life. It only becomes a problem when it is habitual and it consumes every part of your waking hours. This is unhealthy. Not only will you be wearing yourself thin, productivity will also begin to decrease at a certain point. An overworked brain and body can only do so much. It will eventually lead to burnout.
- Optimize your time
Maximize your eight hours so that you don’t have to work overtime. Plan your days, schedule your activities, and prioritize. If you’re honest about it, not all tasks are urgent. Learn to focus more on essential jobs and then schedule less urgent ones for later. Stay away from time-wasters like surfing the net or extra long meetings. Take breaks to re-charge. Keep your workspace clean and organized for maximum efficiency.
Determine your ideal work style. Are you most attentive in the mornings? Schedule heavier and more urgent tasks early in the day. If you are more creative after lunch, then leave tasks that need conceptualization and imagination in the afternoons. Periods of low energy can be spent on doing administrative tasks like filing, or maybe answering standard emails.
Another way to optimize your time is to collaborate with team members. Your colleagues’ inputs and ideas can help make your work better and more efficient. Meanwhile, delegating tasks when appropriate fosters teamwork and trust. It also frees you up to do more important tasks.
- Distinguish personal time from work time
Do you answer calls and emails during dinner time? Or check messages before bedtime? We can be available to our bosses, colleagues and clients 24/7 in this highly connected world. But do you think this is fair to your family or yourself?
Learn to unplug. Being distracted can take a toll on your relationships. When office hours are done, maintain the quality of your personal time by being completely present when you’re with your family or friends. Also give your mind and body a chance to relax and de-stress. You will need the energy when you start work again the next day.
- Invest in yourself
Invest in your own well-being. A healthy diet, enough sleep, rest, and exercise are crucial to physical health. Activities like yoga and meditation can help strengthen your focus so that you can be more effective at work (Read Self-care: A critical ingredient to your success for more tips).
Nurture your natural curiosity and strive for continuous learning. Make time for the things you enjoy. A person who tends to their own mental and spiritual growth naturally radiates positive energy, joy and enthusiasm for life.
- Take vacations
Use your vacation days and give yourself time to recharge. This is a good opportunity to get out of your regular routine. If you’re worried that taking vacations will make you look like a non-performer, consider that a US study has found no evidence that avoiding vacation improved one’s chances for a bonus or a raise. In fact, the study found that “taking some time away from work might just help others see how important your contributions are” (6 reasons why you should take your vacation days, Rise staff, Rise).
Go and spend some time with your loved ones and create great memories. Travel and explore to gain new ideas, learn new perspectives, and expand your world view. You will not only become a more well-rounded individual, but you will also come back to tackle your responsibilities with renewed energy and zest.
Article updated September 27, 2021.
Sources: Three reasons why work-life balance is important, Laura Hutton, Australian Institute of Business; 6 ways to improve your work-life balance today, Sammi Caramela, Business News Daily. All accessed November 17, 2017.
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