Work-life balance is a very tricky situation to get right due to a certain number of reasons. One is because, even though everybody worldwide is on a quest to achieve it, only a few have a definitive grasp on what the concept actually means. Most think it means an equal balance between work and personal enjoyment, but it is more flexible than that.
Imagine trying to schedule an equal number of hours for your various personal activities and work. Yes, you might be able to pull it off for a while, but life will undoubtedly rear its head. Emergencies occur. Impromptu activities crop up. Just because you have a schedule does not mean that the world will adhere to it, and besides, life is and should be more dynamic than that.
Another reason is the society we find ourselves in, where hard work is synonymous with competency and ability. You close at 4 pm, but you have to stay till 5, so your boss can see you as a hard worker because if you leave immediately, you’re seen as lazy. And then, when you get home, you’re told to work on the minutes of today’s meeting simply because your boss didn’t get around to processing it before closing time. And you cannot say no.
These, and a host of other reasons, are why having the perfect work-life balance has and continues to elude most people. So, without further ado, let us get into it.
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is that state of equilibrium where an individual prioritizes the demands of their career and personal life equally. It refers to the level of prioritization between professional and personal activities in an individual’s life, and how much of their job-related activities take place at home.
The ideal work-life balance is open to discussion, as there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all balance that one should be striving for. This is another mistake most people make; they see how someone is balancing their life and try to model theirs accordingly. The perfect work-life balance is different for everyone because we all have our own lives and priorities.
According to freethinker Paul Krassner, anthropologists often define happiness as having little or no differentiation between an individual’s personal and professional lives.
Elements of work-life balance
At the core of the definition of an effective work-life balance lie two important everyday concepts; Achievement and Enjoyment. And while these ideas might appear simple enough, they are deceptive in their simplicity because they answer the big question “Why?”
“Why do you want a better paycheck… a new house… put the kids through college… do a good job today… come to work at all? Why?”
Most people already grasp what Achievement means, but let us explore the concept of Enjoyment a little more. Enjoyment, as part of a relevant work-life balance definition, does not simply mean “Ha-Ha” happiness. Instead, it means Pride, Satisfaction, Celebration, Love, Happiness, A Sense of Well Being.
In other words, all the joys of living.
Achievement and Enjoyment are the two sides of the coin of value in life, and just as you cannot have a coin with only one side, you can’t have one without the other. Unfortunately, trying to live a one-sided life is why so many “successful” people, despite their wealth, are not as happy or nearly as happy as they should be.
You cannot get life’s total value without BOTH Achievement and Enjoyment, and focusing on them every day will help you avoid the “As Soon As” trap; the life-dulling habit of planning on getting around to entertainment “as soon as….”
Factors affecting work-life balance
Due to the increased level of technology that has downplayed the importance of physical location in defining the concept, work-life balance is a topical issue. There used to be a clear line between personal and professional life when it was difficult or impossible to take work home, but the advent of mobile technology, cloud-based software and the expansion of the internet has made it much easier for employees to ‘permanently’ be at work.
This has blurred the distinction between personal and professional.
Stress is also a common feature of a poor work-life balance, and mental stress has been identified in the information economy as a significant health and economic problem caused by employees’ perceived need to get more done in as little time as possible.
An essential subject in the work-life balance argument is who is responsible for ensuring employees have an excellent work-life balance. The general sentiment is that employers are supposed to be accountable for the health of their employees, both physical and mental. Besides moral responsibility, burned-out employees are more likely to make errors and be less productive.
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Some of the reasons that can result in a poor work-life balance include the following:
- Increased responsibilities at work
- Increased responsibilities at home
- Working longer hours
- Having children
According to Chris Chancey, a career expert and the CEO of Amplio Recruiting, a good work-life balance has numerous positive effects. This includes a lower risk of burnout, less stress and a greater sense of well-being which benefits the employers as much as the employees.
“Employers who are inclined to providing environments that support work-life balance for their employees can experience fewer cases of absenteeism, save on costs and enjoy a more loyal and productive workforce,” Chancey said.
Employers offering flexible work schedules and telecommuting can help employees improve their work-life balance.
You should think about how best to achieve harmony at work and in your personal life when creating your schedule. Work-life balance is about more than just dividing the hours in your day evenly between personal life and work, as well as having the flexibility to get things done in your work life while still having the time and energy to enjoy your personal life. Some days, you can work long hours to free up time to enjoy other activities.
Importance of work-life balance
We’ve all heard stories of that person that seems fine one day, and then suddenly, they either slump or take a nap, and from there, boom! They’re gone. And while many people will be quick to declare the cause of death as a well-placed sniper shot from some talented village people sharpshooter, it is usually nothing as exciting or outlandish as that.
It is stress.
Workplace stress is one of the most rampant causes of death worldwide, and many people have identified their jobs as the number one source of their anxiety. The biggest problem is that they think they have no choice, but this is not true because, ultimately, work-life balance is created through personal decisions. By agreeing to take on more work than they can do or not delegating work that can be delegated, people are the ones causing stress for themselves.
Here are some choices that you can start making to relieve yourself of stress and anxiety:
- Delegating as much as possible.
- Saying no to things that aren’t priorities.
- Prioritizing your own well-being.
- Choosing tasks that are priorities (and letting go of non-priorities).
Work-Life balance will improve your health, physically and mentally
Health, both mental and physical, is one of the biggest reasons why work-life balance is essential. You are more capable of dealing with negative thoughts and emotions when you feel balanced, giving you more breathing space to think and becoming more self-aware.
How you live and work also affects your physical health, and if you’re, like most professionals, chained to a desk all day long or glued to your couch at night due to stress, it makes things worse for the body. Human beings are not meant to sit so much or be cooped up indoors; do you think our forefathers that went hunting lions didn’t have sense? Why do you think people in the Old Testament lived to triple digits?
Achieving a balance between work and personal life includes more movement and outdoor activities. Doing this will improve your sleep, give you more energy, and give you a more positive outlook.
Being balanced improves your relationships
Working all the time means spending less time with your loved ones, as it is challenging to be present and give your full attention when you are overwhelmed and exhausted. A balanced lifestyle, however, means more time with family and friends.
Having a balanced lifestyle also means developing deep connections with other people, not only with family but with colleagues and friends too. You will derive more purpose from these connections and feel more connected to your work, creating a ripple effect that will help in a positive outlook regarding your life, career and work relationships.
Work-Life balance increases creative thinking
Everyone has experienced that situation where you’re stuck on a problem, and no matter how much you wrack your brain, no answer comes. Then you let go of worrying about it, and the answer magically appears so that you cannot believe you didn’t see it sooner because it was practically sitting on your nose. The same thing happens when you have an unhealthy work-life balance.
As said earlier, the brain needs space to think. It is not designed to be constantly assailed by people, social media, emails, texts, and phone calls. When you’re stressed, anxious and/or overwhelmed, the capacity to think creatively goes out the window. However, with balance comes clear, creative thinking, which also means better work product.
Work-life balance brings happiness and fulfilment
Personal happiness and fulfilment are one of the most fundamental reasons why work-life balance is essential. Imperative, even. Balance is all about feeling good about yourself and your life and being in control of your career and life, which are both keys to creating personal happiness and giving your life meaning.
How to improve your work-life balance
There is no ‘perfect’ work-life balance – Accept this
As said earlier, the idea of a perfect work-life balance, to most people, is having an extremely productive day at the office and leaving early to spend the remainder of the day with their friends and family. However, as also pointed out, even if it seems ideal, it is only sometimes possible.
A good work-life balance is not perfect, but instead, it is realistic. Some days, you might focus on work to have more time and energy for your hobbies later. Balance is achieved not each day but over time.
Find a job that you love
This is a significant way to achieve an ideal work-life balance, as it is hard to be happy if you hate what you do. Of course, you do not have to love every aspect of your job, but it must be exciting enough that the prospect of getting out of bed every morning doesn’t leave you tired.
Don’t be afraid to unplug
Cutting ties with the outside world occasionally gives room for other thoughts and ideas to emerge and allows us to recover from weekly stress. Unplugging can mean simple things like practising transit meditation and playing mobile games on your daily commute instead of checking work emails or reading novels.
Take a vacation
Sometimes, truly unplugging means taking some vacation time and shutting work off entirely for some time. Whether your vacation consists of a two-week trip to Santorini or just a one-day staycation, it is essential to take time off to recharge physically and mentally.
Set boundaries and work hours
The main reason why you cannot create a good work-life balance is that you suck at setting boundaries. Yes, you, I’m talking to you. Even after working from 8 am to 6 pm, your boss still calls you at 10 pm to work on a document, and you immediately jump on your laptop, working for another two hours. And you say make you no get burnout.
You need to create boundaries for yourself and your colleagues. When you leave the office, LEAVE THE OFFICE. Stop thinking about upcoming projects or answering company emails and calls. Consider having a separate phone or computer for work, which you can shut down after clocking out. And if that isn’t possible because of sapa, use different browsers, filters or emails for your work and personal platforms.
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