How to achieve work-life balance
It is often said that we spend more time at work than at home, and that work gives us many benefits – from a sense of belonging and a purpose to a clear structure for each day. And of course, it pays the bills! However, working or looking for work can sometimes feel overwhelming and if we are not careful, overtake our ability to cope. This article will outline how an effective work-life balance can be achieved when in full-time or part-time employment as well as when searching for a job.
I have worked with many people who suffer stress and burn-out at work and noticed a number of common problems that can lead to this situation. Below I have described the four most common causes of burn-out as well as possible solutions.
Lack of physical exercise
Physical exercise is a fantastic stress-buster. It not only helps to keep up our fitness levels, but also releases endorphins or ‘feel good’ hormones that give us all a lift following the mental pressures of working or looking for work. I have noticed that those heading towards burn-out often stop exercising, saying that they are “too busy”. The challenge to this way of thinking is that we should all make time for what is important, and the question is, to what extent do we value our physical and mental health?
Blurred work/home boundaries
Setting clear boundaries between work and home life is increasingly becoming a challenge given the prevalence of home working. Advances in technology have enabled us to work anywhere and at any time. This gives us great flexibility but, at the same time, can erode the boundary between work and home. How much work is enough? Are we now so addicted to the smartphone that any conversation taking place at home with family members is a distracted affair? How are we able to sleep when trying to switch off from work pressures? The challenges are endless, but setting clear boundaries is important. For example, switching off your smartphone while on holiday and not looking at work emails late at night can help you set aside some downtime.
Using a separate room when working at home or clearing away work objects after finishing for the day can help with boundary management. Explaining to family and friends that you are working at home can also help as everyone will be clear about your expectations and this can help to minimise interruptions.
Lack of hobbies and pastimes
When individuals are heading towards burn-out, this can have a significant impact on non-work pastimes as individuals begin to lose enjoyment or feel that they are now meaningless.
Part of the issue here relates to control and individuals experiencing burn-out can increasingly feel resentment as work or time spent looking for work seems to invade every part of their life. Regaining control is therefore key and allows us to prioritise enjoyable pastimes. Scheduling your pastimes in the diary is a good step in the right direction and before long they will be considered just as important as a work meeting.
Self-belief is sometimes referred to as “personal resilience”, or an ability to bounce back from setbacks. Having a clear sense of purpose while also knowing that it won’t be easy along the way can better prepare us for setbacks. Talking to others about how you are feeling can also help as well as challenging negative thinking.
In conclusion, while working or looking for work is crucial, it needs to be kept in proportion to other aspects of our daily lives. Striking the right balance can be a real challenge, but is an important life skill if we are to survive in an increasingly competitive and fast-moving environment.
It’s also worth remembering that work is probably best seen as a marathon rather than a 100-metre sprint. Setting a reasonable pace, looking after ourselves and challenging negative thinking are much better strategies for winning than simply managing to race around the track!
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About the author:
Andrew is a Chartered Counselling & Chartered Occupational Psychologist, is the Chief Psychologist for OH Assist and Chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association.
He has published widely and is particularly interested in the management of stress within organisations. He has published two major books with co-editors Professor Cary Cooper and Rick Hughes, ‘Employee Wellbeing Support; A workplace Resource’ and ‘International Handbook of Workplace Trauma Support’.
Further information is available on his work here.
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