Discover tips for managing time, disconnecting from work, and caring for yourself.
While work-life balance is something almost everyone knows about, very few people know exactly what it entails. To put it in simple terms, work-life balance is the amount of time you spend doing your job versus the amount of time that you spend at home – home time is, for example, time spent with friends, family, and pursuing your personal interests (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.).
Since the pandemic, the term ‘work-life balance’ has been under increased scrutiny due to its suggestion that our work and our personal lives are in different and adversarial spheres competing for our time. This can result in an unhealthy relationship with our work or personal life where we end up feeling guilty no matter which one we prioritize (Hochwarter et al., 2007).
Some people believe in advocating for work-life integration versus work-life balance. They believe that a synergistic blending of our work and personal responsibilities is the best approach (Burke, 2006). This perspective places work as another spoke on the wheel of our lives, to be considered alongside other ‘spokes’ such as our family lives and personal well-being. Supporters of this approach argue that each element feeds into one another and is essential for us to thrive. Ultimately, whether you agree with work-life integration or work-life balance, overall the goal is to manage your time between work and home in a way that benefits you.
When your work-life balance is off-center, there can be a myriad of mental, physical, and emotional problems that arise. For example, when you work long hours, it can lead to serious health issues such as (Sultan & Nag, 2020):
It can be tough though because many people believe that working a lot equates to being a good worker. However, working long hours isn’t the key to increased productivity. A study in 2015 found that when workers hit a certain number of hours, their productivity also decreased (Pencavel, 2015). At this threshold, their potential for mistakes and injuries also increased. In general, achieving a work-life balance is best not just for your well-being but also for your productivity.
Here are some benefits of a better work-life balance:
We are happier when we have time for the people and things we care about.
When you have time to rest and accomplish things personally, you are more likely to have a productive career.
Better Care Satisfaction
When you are not always stressed about reaching deadlines and thinking about work 24/7, you are more likely to be satisfied with your work.
When you achieve a work-life balance, it can help reduce stress. This leaves you more time for healthier activities such as exercise or mindfulness meditation.
Tips for Work-Life Balance
Here are some tips to help with work-life balance (Bartlett et al., 2021):
The most important of the tips is learning how to best use your time. There are many ways to do this; You could keep a schedule and write down all the meetings or commitments you have for the week. This will enable you to organize your tasks more efficiently.
Prioritize and Set Goals
Once you have your schedule, you can prioritize your personal values and reassess your strategy to honor them. Ask yourself, what really matters to me, and am I doing it? Where am I making compromises, and should I? What are my alternatives? You may want to rethink what your values are and change what you prioritize. You may have different things you want to accomplish by the end of the day, the week, or even the year. Once you know your priorities, you can establish personal goals based on them to act as a guide in navigating your decisions.
Put Yourself First
Sometimes, you have to advocate for yourself. To have better health, it may help to ensure you have time to exercise, plan your meals, and in general to have downtime for yourself. Another essential skill is learning that it’s okay to say no sometimes. Be careful not to overschedule yourself and spread yourself too thin—in the end, this can negatively affect your mental and physical health and your performance at work
Develop a Support System
There is no shame in seeking support. We are fundamentally social beings, and building connections with our community is essential to a happy life. At work, it may help to join forces with co-workers that you know will support you and vice versa. At home, friends and loved ones may be able to help you with tasks such as childcare or household chores whenever you are overwhelmed at work. Making such bonds can help you when you are stretched for time.
Know When to Seek Professional Help
Life inherently can be chaotic, and trying to manage it while also dealing with work stressors can become too much for anyone. If you feel anxious or depressed due to a disrupted work-life balance, feel no shame in seeking a mental health provider.
Remember that a work-life balance will not look the same for everyone. In fact, it could even be said that the perfect work-life balance doesn’t exist. Instead, a work-life balance is a continuous process. It may be helpful to examine your priorities and make changes accordingly periodically.
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Pamela (Pami) Parker currently serves as a holistic practitioner, coach and teacher. Her intention is to be a compassionate guide to those who choose to experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of life.