Work-life balance is the point along the continuum where the demands of your work, personal and professional life meet. Put simply, it is the time allocated to your work, to enjoying yourself and spending time with your family and friends.
A healthy work-life balance is important for a number of reasons. Finding a balance helps to prevent burnout and reduces stress in the workplace. You become a more efficient and productive worker. A particularly pleasant benefit is that you will become more motivated, more engaged, and will enjoy your work more.
The key takeaway for the person reading this is that having a good work-life balance will bring benefits to both your professional and personal life. Its importance cannot be understated.
Results from a recent survey by the ISS called the 2020 Vision suggest that one of the most important trends in the workplace this year will be helping employees manage their work and private life.
What's more, for 2020 and beyond the workplace will have to accomodate five different generations. With flexible working becoming more and more sought after by Millennials and Generation Z, companies and employees will have to start thinking about the way they find and encourage a healthy work-life balance.
Finally, the Covid-19 crisis has combined our work and home lives under the same roof for the forseeable future, so it has never been more pertinant to discuss how to manage our work-life balance.
So, as we enter 2020, let’s have a look at some of the potential trends which will influence the work-life balance.
It comes as no surprise that remote working and flexi-time are going to become integral parts of the future world of work. There is a continuously growing demand for companies to offer flexible and remote working options, as well as a spike in the number of employees requesting to work from home.
Before the pandemic, it was expected that in 2020, 50% of the UK workforce would have a remote working element integrated into their lifestyle. A prediction that has since been fulfilled.
Generally speaking, remote working gives employees a greater sense of freedom, and therefore the potential for greater ownership and control of their working life. However, there are a few reasons to be wary of remote work.
For some, working from home can mean a better work-life balance as you cut down on the commute and can fit household chores and life admin into a normally busy day. On the flip side, it can feel isolating and many feel like work begins to take over the home environment. Whether you prefer to separate work from your home life or like to integrate the two, it is imporant to consider what decisions you can make to have a healthy work-lifebalance.
In April 2020, statistics released by the UK's Office for National Statistics showed 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home, as a result of the social distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic. With more and more people working remotely, it is more important than ever to establish a healthy relationship between work and private life.
In April 2020, 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home
What's more, as Covid-19 closed its grip on the world, many people began to rethink their priorities. They realized that they were not spending enough time looking out for themselves, friends and family. The nature of the workplace and workforce is changing, which despite the difficult context, will ultimately have a positive impact on our work-life balance.
Recently, Morgan Stanley introduced an onsite nursery for their employees to use. Many other large coroporations ahve followed suit, and new amenities provided by employers will become more popular throughout this decade. Research from the ISS has reported that the following amenities are seen as important for improving their work-life balance and wellbeing in the workplace: gyms, wellness centres, help with child day-care, healthcare amenities and quiet rooms. When looking for employment, consider how the company supports its employees both in regard to their professional and personal life.
Whilst we dedicate the majority of the week to our jobs, work is not the be all and end all of our existence. It is important to establish clear boundaries between your work and personal life to avoid burnout. It is advisable to set working hours and stick to them as much as possible. This means not checking your emails at 10pm when you're in bed. Consider having a separate work computer and work phone, which you can switch off when you clock off. Having a degree of separation will make you much more relaxed and therefore better prepared for the following day.
Taking time away from work, especially away from screens is essential. Try and have all electronic devices switched off during the few hours before you go to sleep, including laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Studies have shown that this will improve your sleeping pattern and boost mental health. Contrary to what many people believe, not being availible 24/7 is not detrimental to your career and will not endanger your chances of promotion. In fact, being well-rested will increase productivity and positively impact your output.
When personal issues arise, it can be tempting to bury yourself in your work. However, it is important to spend quality time with yourself and with your loved ones. Take an afternoon off and spend it practicing self-care, meet an old friend or visit a relative. Add important anniversaries and occasions to your dirary, and make plans to celebrate them. These small actions will go a long way to ensure long term happiness outside of the office, which will help you achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Setting achievable goals is a great way to keep focused and aligned with your team. Planning the week ahead will help everyone understand what is expected from them, and hopefully reduce the time spent completing tasks. Whilst some people might feel isolated working from home, setting goals remotely will help to track personal progress and provide you with a sense of purpose. What's more, after achieving your daily, weekly or monthly goals you will feel a greater sense of achievement and it will be easier to switch off after work.
Take the time to exercise at least three times in the working week, if not everyday. Go for a lunchtime run, do a yoga class in the morning or go for an evening walk, there is no shortage of ways to get active that will fit in with the busiest work schedule. According to one study, workday exercise can improve time management and productivity by up to 72%. There is no argument that a regular exercise regime will improve your work-life balance, as well as break up a busy day and improve your mental and physical health.
A lunch break should be precisely that: a break. With employees increasingly being judged on output, not hours, it can be tempting to work through your lunchbreak. To acheive a healthy work-life balance, we suggest that you make the most of this break. You could go to the gym, join a lunchtime class, read in the park or go for a walk. Alternatively, split up your lunch break into 20-30 minute chunks to give yourself more, shorter breaks during the day. Above all, if you can't fit in an activity or exercise, it is important to leave your desk and have a change of environment.
In 2018, research indicated that almost 40% of UK workers used only half of their annual leave entitlement and more shockingly, 13% of UK workers used only 20% of their entitlement. Annual leave is there to be taken, and whilst many fear the build up of tasks, with an effective time management plan we are all capable of and deserve having some time off.
Better still, if you work around bank holidays you can get almost two weeks off for the price of at most nine. So, whether it’s because you want to spend more quality time with your family, or you just like relatively long holidays you can use your entitlement strategically to improve your work-life balance.
Whilst working from home it is tempting to lounge on the sofa with the TV on while you work. However, your productivity levels will drop, which will lead to having to work outside of your designated hours. Instead, set up an office space and dress for work; it signals to your mind that it is time to concentrate. By taking away distractions it will be easier to focus on your daily tasks and lead to a stress-free evening which you can enjoy at leisure.
If you have followed all of these steps and your work is still draining you both professionally and personally, it might be time for a career change. Find a job you are passionate about that gives you something to look forward to when you wake up in the morning. The ultimate work-life balance can be achieved by pursuing a career that you love.
Using time more efficiently is an important skill which will help you find a healthy balance. The classic phrase is ‘work hard, play hard’ but is ‘work smarter, play better’ a healthier, more viable alternative? Adopting a smarter approach using a combination of efficiency, time-management and creativity, can provide you with a better balance to your work-life.
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PeopleGoal Support Team