Here are some questions for you to answer: Do you like the way you spend your days? Never feel that you can give enough time to work, family, creative pursuits or hobbies as well as health and exercise? Ever have time for what is important to you? Do you feel like you have a good work-life balance?
For a multitude of reasons, it has become increasingly difficult to draw the line between work and life. It seems as though even all our modern conveniences and smart devices have not helped and we are always in a rush, trying to get through our infinite To-Do lists.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that we rank low at 27 out of the 35 countries that were studied when it comes to levels of work-life balance. We don’t know how to achieve work-life balance.
What is work-life balance anyway?
A good work-life balance is when you can harmonize all aspects of your life – work, family, personal goals, health – so that each functions as a whole. Each aspect supports and nurtures the other, enabling you to grow and develop.
In simple words, it means being able to separate your personal life and your professional life and enjoy spending time on what is important to you. It should be noted that a good work-life balance means vastly different things to different people. Some choose to work on their hobbies in their free time. Some choose to spend less time focusing on their jobs and more on their workout regime or their social life. What is important to you might seem banal to others.
When you think about how to achieve work-life balance, it has less to do with the number of hours you work and more to do with whether you like what you’re doing. Those who enjoy their work (as well as getting an acceptable number of working hours and enough time to relax) report the highest level of satisfaction and mental health.
Why is work-life balance so important?
Work dominates a huge portion of your life and has a huge impact on your mental and physical health. The longer you work, the less time you have for the rest of your life and other activities. This includes leisure time, rest, and personal growth. The quality and quantity of your leisure time is an essential factor in your well-being.
Burnout is one of the most common effects of not being able to maintain a work-life balance. It is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that occurs after extensive periods of stressful work. A little bit of stress is natural and keeps you alert and able to rise to challenges and difficult situations. But if it carries on for too long, it can hurt your health, productivity and relationships.
Look out for these signs of burnout:
- Feeling emotionally, mentally and physically drained all the time
- Developing a sense of detachment from the world
- Lacking feelings of achievement or self-worth
- Compassion fatigue i.e. losing all sense of empathy and becoming apathetic
- A constant feeling of “going through the motions” of life
What are the benefits of a good work-life balance?
Years of research have proven that working should be a necessary part of life because it offers a range of physical and mental benefits:
- Bringing structure to your daily life
- Providing constructive activities to undertake
- Infusing life with a sense of purpose and meaning
- Allows the development and nurturing of relationships and a sense of belonging
- Financial independence
- Boosts confidence and mental wellbeing
But you can’t begin to enjoy your work if you are working in bad workplace conditions. You might notice a negative impact if your work life is impacted by any of the below factors:
- Job stress
- Poor working conditions
- Unreasonable physical and psychological demands
- Under-appreciated and underpaid work
- Job insecurity
- Lack of control over one’s actions and well-being in the workplace
How can Australia work towards a better work-life balance?
It isn’t only the individual’s job to ensure a good balance between work and life; the government, companies, and workforce-related organizations must also be involved.
The government and workforce organizations must encourage flexible working practices so that professionals can achieve balance in their work and life. When comes to work-life balance, there is a lot that companies can do:
- Implement flexible work practices including work-from-home, part-time work and job-sharing
- Have family-friendly policies in place to make it easier for employees to take care of and spend time with family
- Allow and support employees to take annual leave to have a break from constant work and prevent burnout
- Conduct surveys and have one-on-one discussions to understand what balance is to different people and allow effective implementation of policies that nurture a healthy work life balance
How does one achieve work-life balance?
When you start thinking about how to achieve work-life balance, you should view it as a long-term plan that will take time to develop. You can help the process by considering the following tips:
Know what is important to you: Spend time only on your priorities, your passions and all the things that make you feel alive.
Time management: Learn to manage your time through diaries, apps and to-do lists. Keep track of time and cut out unnecessary time wastage to make time for the things that matter in life.
Set boundaries: Draw a clear line between work and other aspects of life. Stay away from technology when trying to relax and understand that it is okay to say no to work during leisure time
Enjoy what you do: There are no two ways about it: if you despise your job, it’s time to consider changing your roles, company or industry.
Financial considerations: It is a fact that once your needs are met, more money does not necessarily mean more happiness. Working less might mean less money but a more wholesome life.
Relationships: Spending time with family, friends and loved ones should be paramount. Take the time to develop and grow relationships with all the people who matter to have a better quality of life.
Health: Make the time to exercise, eat well and sleep enough. Good health ensures physical and mental well-being.
Downtime: It is important to make the time to simply be. Never underestimate the value of doing nothing and just resting.