As kids, when we were asked what we want to be when we grow up, we had such big dreams about our ideal careers: astronauts, doctors, teachers, scientists. Now, as adults, we find ourselves stuck in jobs we hate, surrounded by people who are not our best friends, spending more time at work with our colleagues that at home, with our families.
By going through this article, you will find out more about the work-life balance, hoping that at the end of the reading you will know the exact changes you have to make for achieving that healthy balance between your work and life.
What happened with our dreams? We always find ourselves in front of a dilemma: we need our jobs, for what they represent (money, stability), but we are missing the time spent doing what really matters for our well-being.
Happiness comes from within each one of us. There is no universal recipe, valid for everyone. If you ask everyone around you what makes them happy, you will get different answers: a lot of money, getting the dream job, spending more time with family and friends. The answers vary from person to person. Among those answers may be few that define happiness as having a balance among all the aspects of one's existence, such as personal life, professional life, and family life.
In our fast-forwarding lives, the pursuit of a healthy work-life balance seems like an impossible goal. Often, the desire to succeed professionally seems to take over on all the aspects of our lives. Our schedules are getting busier than ever before and in our search for a promotion, a salary raise or whatever gives us satisfaction at the workplace, we find ourselves sacrificing everything else on our way. In the end, when we draw a line and see the results, we ask ourselves if it was worth the sacrifice. No one should be put in the situation of choosing one path, sacrificing the other.
It is crucial to find the right work-life balance, the one that brings you harmony and happiness.
The work-life balance definition sets out to achieve an ideal balance between a person's working life and private life. A more practical definition of the work-life balance describes it as a comfortable state of equilibrium achieved between an employee's primary priorities of their employment position and their private style.
Most people would agree that the demands of an employee's career should not overwhelm the individual's ability to enjoy a satisfying personal life outside of the business environment.
Nowadays, the work-life balance has grown into much more than just an appealing concept. The working world is slowly changing as more and more companies are beginning to welcome the idea of a balanced work-life and they are specifically promoting it.
An increasing number of companies are relying on their employees to lead a more balanced lifestyle, as balanced, happy employees are ultimately more productive and motivated. If a company - either consciously or unconsciously - destroys an employee's private life with too much overtime or an unnatural amount of pressure, it will inevitably result in dissatisfaction and stress that can then lead to health problems, decreased productivity, and alienation from the company.
Work-life balance does not mean an equal balance amongst the both. Trying to schedule a equal number of hours for each of your various work and personal activities is usually unrewarding, unrealistic and often unachievable. Life is and should be more fluid than that.
Your best individual work-life balance will vary over time, often on a daily basis. The right balance for you today will probably be different for you tomorrow. The right balance for you when you are single will be different when you marry, or if you have children; when you start a new career versus when you are nearing retirement.
There is a lot of flexibility with life, one has to constantly find a balance as life changes.
However, when defining work-life balance, two key concepts are relevant to each one of us: achievement and enjoyment.
These two concepts always go together, meaning you cannot have fulfillment out of achieving something if you did not enjoy it, and you cannot enjoy doing something if you do not accomplish anything. The four pillars of our own existence are: Self, Family, Friends, and Work and they are all subjects both to achievement and enjoyment.
Imagine achievement and enjoyment as the front and the back of a coin of value in life: you can't have one without the other more than you can have a coin with only one side. Trying to live a one-sided life is why so many successful people are not nearly as happy as they should be. These two concepts, together, help an individual realize the full value of life.
Now you are probably thinking: “two concepts: achievement and enjoyment? It's simple, I can do that!” However, as simple as it sounds in theory, as complicated it is in practice. Practice means real-life and real life is everything, but simple and it is continuously changing.
A healthy attitude towards the work-life balance begins with the employer. The employers must view themselves not as the highest authority in the life of employees, but rather as a team member, that encourages a healthy lifestyle.
However, managers still struggle to find the right balance between a fulfilling personal life and a healthy amount of discipline in the workplace. The question often arises: how much freedom should one give their employees and how much discipline is required in the workplace? Companies that operate on a very “loose” basis run the risk of the employees taking advantage of the generosity of the employer, which may then lead to negligence, and lack of discipline. On the other hand, companies with aggressive micromanagement have a high rate of labor turnover.
At the end of the day, the employee is also responsible for achieving a satisfactory work-life balance. After all, we are talking about striking a balance, as opposed to a disregard for work in favor of a more casual lifestyle, with the family playing the main role in the employee's life.
Here are some tips for both employers who want their employees happy and balanced and employees who want to feel sane and safe in their commitments.
We all would love to work in an office where our managers tell us to work fewer hours, to go home and spend more time with our significant ones. That is not always the case. Mostly, each employee has to find and use different tips for work-life balance.
work is not just a way to make money; it should serve you both financially and emotionally. If you hate what you do, you aren't going to be happy, plain and simple. You don't need to love every aspect of your job, but it needs to be exciting enough that you don't dread getting out of bed every single morning.
Prioritizing your health doesn't have to consist of radical or extreme activities. It can be as simple as daily meditation or exercise. It is well known that exercises help one de-stress and become super-productive, as the brain releases chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and yes, dopamine.
When you feel you have too many tasks to accomplish and your boss keeps on asking you to do more and more, without recognizing how overburdened you are, it's your responsibility to say "Stop!". Learn to be assertive!
Scheduling your vacation sets a boundary and lets everyone in the office, including your boss, that you are not available during that period.
Reach out to your partner and ask for help; communicate your feelings and frustrations and the burden will be easier to carry.
Accept that it is impossible “to have it all”. There is simply not enough time in the week to work full time, exercise, keep a perfect house, raise perfect children, and maintain a social life. Choose to be OK with not being able to do everything.
Do not overwork yourself. Commit to a 40 hours work week for yourself. You, as a leader, are setting the tone for your company culture and your actions are guidelines for the employees.
Allow employees to work flexible hours and/ or telecommute. Also, monitor their vacation time and insist that they should use it.
The human body was not designed to sit at a desk for eight uninterrupted hours. So remind yourself and your employees to step away from the desks, get a cup of coffee, chat with a coworker, take a walk around the building, or whatever is necessary to get a physical and mental break for a few minutes at a time.
When employees have used all their paid time off, they might still experience some type of emergency or unplanned event that requires them to be away from work. Make sure that they know that if they really need to be away for an important event in their lives, they can take unpaid time off.
Show your employees who are parents that you are thinking about them. You can consider providing an onsite childcare facility. If this is not possible, you may want to offer your employees a childcare service discount to alleviate the stresses of caring for children during the workday and reduce the amount of missed work.
Many office buildings have a gym facility on site, so encourage your employees to use it regularly if your building has this amenity. If not, consider offering your employees a membership discount at a local gym.
Reducing stress to increasing performance in all aspects of life is the ultimate goal of work-life balance. Losing older employees means missing highly skilled, organized and dedicated employees with experience. That is why it is crucial for managers to find the means of meeting the needs of seniors and keep them employed.
Achieving a balanced work-life involves a continuous battle on two different fronts: work and life.
Here are a few tips to reduce stress to achieve work-life balance at WORK:
Veing able to meet priorities helps us feel a sense of accomplishment and control. The more control we have over our work, the less stressed we get. So, be realistic about workloads and deadlines. Make a “to-do” list, and take care of important tasks first and eliminate unessential ones. Ask for help when necessary.
Burnout is primarily due to taking on more activities than one can handle at one time. Everything becomes too much, too heavy, and the person just breaks down. They end up over-committing themselves and then feeling extreme disappointment if they are unable to deliver on all the things that they have committed to. A possible result of this frustration? Depression.
When you face a big project, start by dividing it into smaller tasks. Complete the first one before moving on to the next. Give yourself small rewards upon each completion, whether it is a five-minute break or a coffee. If you feel overwhelmed by routines that seem unnecessary, tell your boss. The less time you spend doing tedious work, the more time you can spend productively, or with friends or family.
Flexible schedules and working from home are quickly becoming established as necessities in today's business world, and many companies are drafting work/life policies. If you ask, they might allow you to work flexible hours or from home a day a week. Research shows that employees who work flexible schedules are more productive and loyal to their employers.
Taking a break at work is often encouraged by many employers. Small breaks at work—or on any project—will help clear your head, and improve your ability to deal with stress and make good decisions when you return to work.
Listen to your favourite music at work to foster concentration, reduce stress, and anxiety, and stimulate creativity. Studies show the benefits of music in everyday life, including lowered blood pressure. If possible, wear headphones on the job, and then pump up the volume - and your productivity.
Be honest with colleagues or your boss when you feel you are in a bind. Chances are, you're not alone. Suggest practical alternatives. Looking at a situation from someone else's viewpoint can also reduce your stress. Consider different opinions, and compromise. Retreat before you lose control, and allow time for all involved to cool off. You will be better equipped to handle the problem constructively later.
Work is work, home is home. There should be no place for work at your home (unless, of course, the nature of the job has you working from home). Limit yourself in bringing work home.
Tips to reduce stress to achieve work-life balance at HOME:
The same technology that makes it so easy for workers to do their jobs flexibly can also burn us out if we use them 24/7. By all means, make yourself available—especially if you've earned the right to “flex” your hours—but recognize the need for personal time, too.
Chatting with friends and family can be important to your success at home—or at work—and can even improve your health. People with stronger support systems have more aggressive immune responses to illnesses than those who lack such support.
Aside from its well-known physical benefits, regular exercise reduces stress, depression and anxiety, and enables people to better cope with adversity, according to researchers. It will also boost your immune system and keep you out of the doctor's office. Make time in your schedule for the gym or to meditate—and have some fun!
Being in good shape physically increases your tolerance to stress and reduces sick days. Eat right, exercise and get adequate rest.
Try to get as much proper sleep as you can, and if you have the opportunity to get some shut-eye, even a power nap during lunchtime, and then do so. It may be short, but it will work wonders in recharging you right up.
Your hobby is something that is solely yours. It is something that you do entirely for yourself; not your family and friends, and certainly not the people you work for and work with. Keep the hobbies that you have, and revisit the ones that you let go of in the past.
Don't let stress stand in the way of your health and happiness. Let your family know about the difficulties you are facing. If you are persistently overwhelmed, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness—taking care of yourself is sign of strength.
No one's perfect! Allow yourself to be human and just do the best you can.
According to research, practicing meditation improves one's capacity for emotional control. Moreover, it helps to handle stress better and lead to better focus if practiced as a habbit.
It is not a surprise that researches demonstrate very clearly that a balanced work-life is the base for a successful career and a satisfying personal life.
If we do not take time to recharge and are totally focused on work, we risk exhaustion and won't be as effective as someone that balances their life properly. The problem is that instead of our minds and bodies telling us we need to cut back, they adapt. But only to a certain extent. Eventually, the long hours take their toll and we end up exhausted, stressed, and burnt out.
According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, in 2008, 94% of 1,000 people working in professional services (consultants, investment bankers, accountants, lawyers, IT, and the like) said they put in 50 or more hours a week, with nearly half that group turning in more than 65 hours a week. That doesn't include the 20 to 25 hours a week most of them spend monitoring their smartphones while outside the office. And things have gotten worse since then.
Based on the “2015 Workplace Flexibility Study”, 67% of HR professionals think that their employees have a balanced work-life, yet almost half (45%) of employees (35% of job seekers) feel that they don't have enough time each week to do personal activities. One in five employees surveyed spent over 20 hours working outside of the office on their personal time per week - a clear indicator of suboptimal work-life balance.
The brain needs to disconnect occasionally, it needs time to process what it just has learned. Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University has spent more than 30 years studying how people achieve the highest levels of expertise. Ericsson has concluded that most people can engage in deliberate practice for only an hour without rest. He also has shown that people can commit themselves to only four or five hours of concentrated work at a time before they stop getting things done. Past the peak performance level, output tends to flatline, or sometimes even suffer.
Outside of work, it's important that you keep strong relationships with significant others and friends. Be default, we are gregarious, therefore having a strong support system is one of the keys to being happier in life.
But lately, we have made our jobs so much a part of our lives and our identity that breaking up with them seems impossible. Comparing our relationship to work to a passionate romantic one, Gianpiero Petriglieri, organizational behavior professor at INSEAD, writes:
“Romance has long been known for making us lose our minds. It is no different when work is involved…We 'over' work not when we work too hard but when working becomes less of a means and more of an end. When meditation, exercise, sleep, holidays, and even parenting, are cast as tools to make us better workers.”
According to numerous studies by Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, overwork and the resulting stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, including:
For sure, it is difficult to juggle a career and one's personal life, especially if there are family and friends involved. That does not mean, however, that it cannot be done. Achieving work-life balance is a challenge, but it is one that anyone can rise to.
The changing landscape of how we work has a significant impact on the work-life balance. Remote work is here, which means that we are more connected and that although we benefit from more flexibility, we might risk blurring the boundaries between work and life.
Let's look at why work-life balance is important
Maintain a journal and create a timetable
You can start small. Write down all the activities that you perform in a week, from Monday to Sunday. When we say "all activities", this includes those that are work-related and personal life-related. Writing things down in a journal helps in making things more concrete and resolute. In case you are confused about what to do, you can simply consult your journal and be reminded.
By creating a schedule, you will have a better picture of what to expect in the week to come. This will mentally prepare you for anything that may come up at work or at home. It will also put a semblance of order into things, so you do not find yourself flailing about aimlessly, with no direction.
Insert a downtime in your schedule
No matter how busy you will be in the coming week, make sure to build some downtime into it. It could be time spent with family and friends, or you could insert some relaxing activities that you can do by yourself.
The purpose of this downtime is to let you recharge, gather your bearings, and "catch your breath", so to speak, especially if it has been a particularly busy week at work. This downtime will also give you something to look forward to and anticipate.
Examples of downtime inserted in one's schedule are an hour-long yoga class at the end of the day, swimming several laps at the pool right before breakfast, or going for a run in the early hours of the morning before taking a shower and heading off to work.
Do not give the “I don't have time” reason. “I don't have time to even have a morning run" or “I don't have time for a yoga class after work before heading home”. Make time. That is why you have to be more proactive in your scheduling.
Organize your tasks efficiently
This goes for both household chores and work tasks. At home, if you are used to doing your laundry every day, you can probably schedule it every two days or three days, or during the weekend.
When you are going to shop for your groceries and household supplies, list down everything you need so you can purchase them all at one go, dispensing the need to go on multiple trips to the supermarket every time you need something.
The balancing act between work and home life can feel overwhelming at times. It's crucial for workers to do what they can to avoid overworking themselves and striking a healthy balance between home and career. And it's equally important for employers to promote a healthy work-life balance for their employees. We hope that these tips help you to achieve some balance in your lives.
What we know is that all sides benefit from a work-life balance. Our performance-oriented society all too often disregards the importance of the “happy employee” principle, which still causes confusion and skepticism in some levels of management. This is due to competition and the fact that every important link in the chain must function to remain competitive - especially in terms of the so-called shortage of skilled workers and demographic developments.
Something that is often misunderstood is the fact that employees are not machines that can work incessantly during the day and simply fill their tanks at home at night to repeat it all again the next day. In most cases, people work to live and not the other way around.
Remember that work and life coexist: wellness at work follows you home and a healthy private life accompanies you at the workplace. Work and life are not opposing forces trying to break the balance. On the contrary, they go hand in hand, mixing and blending as two parts of a whole: YOU!
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