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Five tips to help you achieve work-life balance
There’s a growing trend in our workplaces that we should ‘always be on’. Even at weekends and outside work hours, when you’re carrying around your phone, tablet or laptop, you might feel like you’re never really out of the office. How many times have you found yourself saying: “I’ll just answer this one email,” while you’re in bed?
This is causing havoc to our work-life balance, and thousands of us are suffering as a result. In the UK, there are nearly 170,000 claims for stress-related illness and injury every year, according to research by the University of Southampton. Moreover, every day 27,000 people take time off work as a result of stress.
But what can we do about it? How can you address your work-life balance? Here are five tips that may help you.
1) Leave work at the office
When you walk out the office door at the end of the day, at what point do you stop thinking about work? If you’re still thinking about it later in the evening, this is undoubtedly going to affect your work-life balance.
Of course, there are going to be exceptions. You might have a big presentation the next day, or maybe you’re up for a promotion and you want to talk it over with your partner. These scenarios are bound to play on your mind, and that’s entirely understandable. But for the most part, do your best while you’re at work so that when you leave, you don’t have to think about it.
Next time you leave the office, think about what you’ve got planned for the evening instead of what’s waiting for you back at your desk. Love Island anyone?
2. Put your phone in the freezer
There’s an episode of Friends where Joey is reading Stephen King’s horror novel The Shining. Every time he reaches a scary bit, he puts the book in the freezer so he doesn’t have to face it. Silly, yes, but there’s something you can take from that example when it comes to your evenings at home.
It’s hard to switch off if you’re receiving work emails on your phone; you feel obliged to check them in your own time. In fact, answering emails in the evenings or weekends can set a dreadful precedent, where people expect you to respond regardless of whether you’re in the office or in the bath, and you’ll feel pressured into doing so. However, those emails will still be there when you get back to work in the morning, don’t forget that.
We’re not implying you should literally put your phone in the freezer. Instead, put it in another room or on silent, so it won’t hold your attention. Better still, delete the app which enables your work emails to reach your personal phone. Now you can fully concentrate on your Netflix boxset / child’s violin practice / fitness class, etc.
3. Remember: it’s your time, not spare time
How many times have you begun a sentence with “In my spare time, I enjoy…”? It’s that word ’spare’ that doesn’t sit right. The very definition of the word is ‘additional to what is required’ and in the context of your work-life balance, it implies that any time you have away from work is merely ‘additional’.
It’s not spare time. It’s your time.
Those hours you spend at work? They may be essential, but think about it a different way: every hour you work funds/enables you to do something in your time. We hope you’re lucky enough to love your work, but it doesn’t have to define you. Don’t forget how important your time is.
4. Take regular breaks
In order to keep the balance equally weighted, you should use your hard work to treat yourself to regular breaks. That could be going on holiday abroad, visiting family, spending time with the kids, or just taking time off to do whatever it is you enjoy doing.
It’s a cliché, but it’s always worth remembering: ‘Work to live, don’t live to work’. Yes, plenty of people are extremely dedicated and conscientious when it comes to our day jobs – and that’s brilliant. Just don’t let it get in the way of your personal life and having fun. Don’t be that person who is too worried about taking holiday and then is forced to book most of December off to use up their allowance – that only increases your stress levels. Regular breaks boost productivity and positivity.
5. Don’t be afraid to say no
This is one of the most difficult work situations we will ever find ourselves in: saying no. How often have you looked at the clock because you need to leave on time, when a last minute request comes up, requiring you to stay late? Occasions will arise when this is necessary, of course, but when it happens often enough to start affecting your personal life, then you need to do something about it. It’s called work-life balance for a reason, you know.
We’re not saying you should just start saying to no to every request from your boss or colleagues, but if you feel you’ve got enough on your plate already, don’t be afraid to speak up. A good way to get round this is to reply with a: “No problem, I have to leave the office now, but I’ll get to it first thing in the morning.” That way, you manage the sender’s expectations and get to go home on time.
Workplaces can be competitive environments, and though there’s always been a feeling that we have to go above and beyond what’s required of us to succeed, the notion of presenteeism – in whatever form – should by now have been stamped out. It’s not surprisingly, therefore, that flexible working and schemes which promote work-life balance are so attractive to those seeking a new job. Many surveys claim this is more important than salary, especially for younger professionals.
That said, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, bogged-down and overloaded with so much work that your personal life suffers. But bearing some of these tips in mind can help you work more efficiently, have a happier outlook and most importantly, create and enjoy a healthy work-life balance.