How to Maintain a Healthy Work Life Balance
A good work-life balance is essential to maintaining good mental well-being, fulfilling relationships, and quality personal lives. Work-life balance is a phrase that will mean something different to everyone but for those wanting a healthier work-life balance, whatever that means to you, we've got you covered.
In this article, we're going to be looking at our current work-life balance and how we can find a better way of balancing our work life with our personal lives. We'll look at what a healthy work-life balance is, why you need a good work-life balance, what a poor work-life balance can do to you, and how you can go about successfully achieving a work-life balance.
We all have different commitments, different work hours, and different ways we like to spend our downtime, but in general, many of us feel like our work-life balance is out of sync with a good and fulfilling life. We're going to try and help with that! Let's get started.
What is a healthy work-life balance?
Work-life balance refers to the balance between our work lives, the part of our life that is necessary to make money to live and to have a personal life, and our personal lives, which can include family commitments, quality time with friends, and any downtime we have.
There are lots of different approaches to having a good work-life balance. Some find that separating the two is the best way to ensure balance, whereas others have begun merging their work lives and home lives in what is called work-life integration.
A healthy work-life balance means different things to different people. Some people find they need more downtime, more personal time, and more time with their family whereas others feel more fulfilled when working long hours and getting the most out of their work.
Because of these different interpretations, people may feel that someone else's version of a healthy balance is different to what they want and need, but the key is to ensure that your own balance is working for you.
A healthy work-life balance is essential in this busy and fast-paced world. To find out more about why we need this balance, keep reading!
Why do I need a good work-life balance?
So, why do we need a healthy work-life balance? Who does it help and how?
For starters, a decent work-life balance will benefit you and your health. Giving yourself time to relax, time to nurture relationships, time to exercise and eat well, all help to boost and maintain both your physical and mental health.
Good relationships are key to good mental wellbeing. Having people you can speak to and rely upon can help us to feel more at peace and more balanced. In addition, having time to relax, time to take care of your own needs is essential to a positive mental outlook.
Your physical health is impacted by constant work. If you are constantly sitting at a laptop, not moving, eating at your desk, you will find that your physical health will deteriorate. The human body needs time to move, time to increase your heart rate, stretch your legs, and just general exercise, as well as time to eat well.
Having a good balance in your life means giving yourself time to get to the gym, do an at-home resistance band workout, or do a quick yoga session. In addition, this free time can give you the chance to make home-cooked, healthy and organic meals that are nutritious as well as delicious and feed your body the things it needs.
A healthy work-life balance is also good for employers. Contrary to the belief of some employers, giving employees time to rest, socialise, and get to their commitments can actually help them to be more productive when they are at work.
In the past few years, there has been more and more talk of reducing the working week to four days because research suggests that the shorter working week can really benefit the mental wellbeing and productivity of employees. Indeed, during the past 18 months, some employers saw productivity increase as employees were told to work from home amid the pandemic. Working from home meant that many had the chance to cook nutritious meals, spend time with family, and even had time to work out where they may have been commuting or in the office.
There is lots of evidence to suggest that shorter hours and a better work-life balance can help to boost productivity in employees.
What happens if I have a poor work-life balance?
So, what happens when your work-life balance isn't good? How does this imbalance affect your mind, body, and work?
Poor work-life balance can lead to stress, burnout and fatigue. Not having enough time to relax and not getting time away from work can cause us to live on adrenaline which can cause exhaustion, weight gain, and other negative effects.
A negative effect that poor work-life balance can cause is burnout. Burnout is a serious condition that can be caused by long periods of excessive or stressful working conditions. Symptoms of burnout include:
- emotional exhaustion
- a feeling of detachment from work, or feeling cynical about work
- reduced efficiency in work and a lack of any sense of achievement
Burnout should be taken seriously and if you feel like you fit these symptoms you should take some time to relax and rest.
Poor work-life balance can also negatively affect your relationships. If you don't have any time for your friends and family, you may find you drift apart, lose contact with people and socialise less and less. Coupled with an isolating work environment, losing friendships can lead to loneliness.
Striving for a better work-life balance can have a positive effect on your mental health, physical health, and general wellbeing, as well as better productivity and outlook.
How do I get a better work-life balance and improve my personal life?
So, we know that having a good work-life balance is important and we know that a poor work-life balance can lead to stress, poor health, lower productivity and a negative effect on your relationships, but what can we do to achieve a better work-life balance.
It may seem impossible to get a better balance, after all, your boss sets your work hours not you! But there are ways that you can work to improve this balance, even if there are things you cannot change. Let's take a look at some of them.
Set boundaries to protect your mental health
Setting boundaries is a really essential way to support your mental health. Being able to say 'no' when you know you can't do something is important and can help ensure you don't take on too much.
Boundaries are important with your work life as they can ensure you take a step back and have some time where work isn't on your mind. Boundaries can include small things, like turning your laptop off at a certain time each night, putting any work phones you have on Do Not Disturb mode on an evening, making sure you have a moment to yourself in the morning before you begin any work, and leaving your desk at lunchtime!
Setting boundaries may be difficult at first so we've got a few ways you can make it a little easier listed below.
- Have a morning routine that doesn't involve looking at your phone. Get up and have a nutritious breakfast, like porridge topped with dried fruit, practice a little yoga or morning meditation, sit in silence while you sip your morning tea, and don't look at your work emails until you're dressed and ready to go. Having this time to yourself can be a really easy way to prepare yourself for the day ahead.
- Take your own lunch to work in a lunch box and make sure to put it in the communal fridge. This means you have to leave your desk to get it, even better if you have to heat it up! This means that even if you have a really busy day, you are forcing yourself to leave your desk and get away from work for a little while.
Practice good time management to achieve work-life balance
No matter how many times we write that we've got good time management on our resume, we all know we could be a little better at it! Ensuring you get all of your work done within your allotted work hours can help to leave evenings free, giving you time to exercise, cook a healthy dinner, and wind down before bed.
Good time management is key to a good work-life balance. Try planning a structured day with each hour accounted for and stick to the schedule so that you get the downtime you deserve!
Consider your financial situation and whether you need to work those long hours
Another way you could maintain a better work-life balance is by considering whether you need to be working all of the hours you are. Are you taking on extra hours for the money you don't need? Would your mental health benefit from fewer hours, even if it means a little less pay?
We understand that for some, long work hours are necessary. Money, unfortunately, does make the world go around meaning we all need it, but if there are any ways you could cut down on hours, you could try it out and see if helps balance your life a little better.
Protect and maintain good relationships to support work-life balance
One of the best things you can do for your mental wellbeing is to maintain good social relationships with people you get along with and trust. Keeping these relationships can give you a reason to want to leave work!
It may seem silly, but having plans in the evening can be a great motivator to get all of your work done quickly and on time so that you can get home in time to change and hit the town! Maintaining good relationships is a great way to remind yourself what you would miss out on if you were to let work take over.
Take time for your physical health as well as your mental health
We have talked a lot about mental health in this post but physical health is just as important. You need to find time to move your body and so carving out time a few days a week where you intentionally exercise can help to boost physical health.
In addition, making sure you take the time to prepare nutritious meals, with lots of whole grains, veg, and healthy fats, can help to keep you feeling great. Choosing to eat well and taking the time to do so is a form of self-care and can help to support work-life balance. Indeed, simply stopping work to cook a healthy meal can give you time away from your work and time to relax.
Find a balance between family commitments and personal time
Something many people find difficult when trying to have time to themselves is finding a balance between the things we have to do and the things we want to do. Family commitments can take up lots of time in our limited free time and so we should set boundaries with these too.
For family commitments that are unnecessary, try picking and choosing those which you want to do. Choose those which will help you to feel more fulfilled and relaxed in your downtime. Obviously, there are some commitments, like picking up your children from school, that you can't just decide not to do. Instead of seeing this as an obligation though, see it as more time to spend with your loved ones. Sometimes, just changing your outlook on the things in your life can help you to get more out of them.
Have some downtime
And finally, have some time for yourself. Whether that's binge-watching your favourite TV show, putting a face mask on and reading a book, lighting your favourite scented candle, diffusing some relaxing lavender oil, or just taking some time for quiet, taking time for yourself is essential to leading a balanced life.
Finding ways to create better harmony in your life can be difficult, but trying a few of our tips could be the start of your journey to a true balance between work and life. Work is essential in life as we will always need money to survive, but it doesn't and shouldn't take over your life.
Everyone's version of balance is different and so these few tips may work differently for everyone, but the key is to find time to enjoy life when you're not at work and ensure you get time to rest!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good work-life balance?
A healthy work-life balance can look different to everyone. For some, it may mean meeting deadlines, getting to go home on time, and spending time with their friends. Others may see time to relax at the weekend without thinking of work as a good balance. As everyone has different needs, the best thing for good balance differs from person to person and so a good balance is exactly how you define it.
What are the five steps to working life balance?
There are a few steps you can take to get a good working life balance. These include:
- Setting boundaries like turning your work phone off on an evening and not looking at work on a weekend.
- Protecting your mornings and making sure that you don't look at your work email the minute you wake up.
- Make sure to schedule in time for exercise and eating well.
- Taking time for socialisation, whether with your partner, your family, or your friends, socialising is key to good mental health.
- Take time to rest and relax.
What does having a work/life balance mean?
Having a work/life balance means being able to balance your life between the time you spend at work and the time you spend doing things that aren't your work. It is essentially the way you divide your time between making money to survive and relaxing, socialising, taking care of family commitments, exercising, and doing anything else you wish to in your free time.
How do you ask for a work-life balance?
Asking for balance from your boss could mean asking for reduced hours if they are not needed, setting boundaries like turning your work phone off and not looking at emails on a weekend, and making sure to leave work on time. You may struggle to set these boundaries immediately and you may find that some don't respect them, but with time, you will learn to separate out your time.