We all know the proverb about all work and no play that allegedly turned Jack into a dull boy. Whether it did or not, poor work-life balance has never done anyone any good. Long work hours are linked to increased stress, impaired general health, and higher safety risks. Some studies also have found that poor work life balance can have long-term damaging effects such as a high risk of heart disease, stroke, anxiety and depression.
What’s the scenario in the U.S.?
In terms of leisure time that workers get in the country, the U.S. takes the 30th place in the world. An American worker gets about fourteen hours per day for personal care.
Here are some more stats that prove the extent of the problem:
- 94 percent of service professionals work for 50 hours or more each week
- Close to 80 percent of Baby Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z people report poor to zero work-life balance
- Each year $190 billion is spent on addressing the physical and psychological effects of poor work-life balance.
Now that we have established the ill-effects of not having a good work-life balance, let’s focus on how you can achieve it. The benefits of work-life balance are not limited to reduced stress levels and lower burnout risks but extend to holistic well-being.
Tips to achieve work life balance
Choose the right job
A typical view of work-life balance is that the same amount of time is dedicated to work and leisure. However, having a balanced work-life is not just about returning home earlier from work. It’s about your engagement level at work. If you are really happy with what you do for a living, you may not find work stressful. This is why choosing the right job is critical.
According to the American Institute of Stress, job stress is the major cause of stress for adults, which has progressively escalated over the years. If you hate your work or if you are dealing with a toxic environment, a demanding boss or difficult colleagues every day, it can increase your stress levels, which in turn disrupts your personal life as well.
If this resonates with you, the first step is to look for a company that offers a work environment conducive to achieving a good work-life balance. Employers who provide flexible work schedules and options to telecommute, for instance, can help their employees enjoy a better balance between work and life.
Establish clear boundaries between work and leisure. Set specific work hours and stop thinking about pending projects or responding to work emails when you reach home. Consider getting a separate phone and computer for work, which can make it easier for you to shut it off after you leave your workplace. If this is not possible, you can try using different emails, browsers, and filters for work and home.
Plan your day
A good work-life balance does not happen by accident. Proper planning is the key to streamlining your activities and ensuring you have adequate time for personal care and leisure. Create a timeline on an excel sheet or by using computer programs and enter dates and your activities for each day. Break down each task into smaller components. Factor in family commitments, exercise, hobbies, vacations, and parties.
Planning ahead can help you feel more in control of your life. Adhering to a carefully crafted plan can make it easier for you to achieve your personal and professional goals. You will also get enough time to rest, play, exercise, and to spend quality time with family and friends.
Manage your time better
Learning time management skills is an important aspect in terms of achieving work-life balance.
Prioritizing the tasks in your exhaustive to-do list is an effective way to manage your time. You can categorize your tasks into these categories:
- Important and urgent
- Not urgent but important
- Not important but urgent
- Neither important nor urgent
Cultivating the art of saying ‘no’ to extra responsibilities at work will also go a long way in avoiding burnout.
Know how to rest
A recent survey of 2000 American workers found that 60 percent of them are finding it hard to achieve a good work-life balance. A majority of Americans believed there were no boundaries between the responsibilities and pressures of home life and the workplace. Not surprisingly, they said that the major stressor in their lives was the fact that they are unable to unwind after work hours.
According to a study, an average worker checks messages and emails every 6 minutes. While just about 2 hours are devoted to productive use of devices, 21 percent of the time at work is spent on social media, news, and entertainment. This means that close to 26 percent of work is completed after the normal working hours. While we can’t really do away with computers and mobiles, spending a lot of time on these digital devices can hamper your productivity and cause ‘digital fatigue.’
It is important to unplug from devices at work, which can help improve your focus on the task at hand and productivity while avoiding digital fatigue. Taking frequent breaks at work, practicing deep breathing or mindful meditation, and a quick walk around the office building are some ways to destress and calm your mind down.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle plays a central role in your quest to achieve a good work-life balance. Give top priority to optimizing your mental, physical, social, spiritual and emotional health. For instance, if you are experiencing depression or anxiety, take expert help, and make space in your schedule for therapy sessions.
Strengthen your social support system by cultivating healthy professional and personal relationships. Get regular health checks and establish an exercise routine. Take up outdoor activities during weekends, such as hiking, trekking or camping. This is a great way to unwind, unplug, and recharge.
Take a vacation
Sometimes, the only way to truly unplug and relax is to take a vacation. Whether this is a long trip to a sun-drenched country or a one-day staycation, taking time off can help you recharge physically and mentally. The U.S. Travel Association found in a 2018 study that 52 percent of American employees had unused vacation days at the year-end. While many are often concerned that taking a vacation can create a backlog of work, with proper planning and delegation, you can enjoy your holiday while ensuring there is no backlog when you come back to work.