In a world that seems to be getting busier and more demanding each and every year, the challenge of achieving a healthy work-life balance has become increasingly more difficult.
Unfortunately, in our modern-day lives, instantaneous communication and globalization have resulted in ever-increasing demands and expectations.
While it might have been possible in the past to work from 9 til 5 and leave your work at the office, these days, with email, instant messaging and social media (amongst many others) most of us are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve the correct level of work-life balance.
When we allow our work to dominate our lives, a variety of negative consequences are likely to follow, that can affect both our health, and our relationships.
What are the Potential Consequence of Over-working?
If you’re spending too much time away from home, your home life and your health will inevitably begin to take a hit and while it might be tempting to put in the extra hours if you are looking for a promotion or merely trying to survive, there is surely nothing more important than our health and wellbeing.
Here are just some of the potential consequence that can arise from a poor work-life balance.
- Stress is one of the most common effects of having poor work-life balance and is can have adverse effects on the immune system, which can further aggravate any symptoms experienced from an unrelated illness
- Stress can lead to a number of health conditions including obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression and heart disease.
- When we feel tired, or suffer with poor sleeping patterns, our ability to work productively and think effectively can be significantly reduced
- Long term effects of sleep deprivation will drain your mental abilities and also puts your physical health at real risk
- As a result, we are more susceptible to making errors and mistakes in the workplace, which depending on your occupation, can prove to be serious or even dangerous.
Loss of Personal Time
- When we spend too much time working, inevitably we lose time that could be spent with friends and family
- Missing important family events or milestones can be detrimental our relationships with the people we love most.
- If you’re always working extra hours or answering emails in the middle of the night, it can become a routine for your employer to expect you to go above and beyond the call of duty, this can lead to weak boundaries that can leave you feeling drained
- This can seep into your personal life and can cause you even more stress. This also leads to over-inflated expectations and further demands from those that feel you’re always available.
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21st Century Demands
Unfortunately, the power that employers have over their staff is such that many find it impossible to say no to their boss and become virtual 24/7 work robots, always willing to answer a call or email.
Even for the self-employed and business owners, pressures and demands have increased, particularly in the face of the financial crisis that has everyone watching their financial backs.
Given that we are now expected to be constantly connected, more and more of our free time is being eaten into by demands from work, with many of us unable to switch off in our downtime.
One such example of the pressures faced in our ultra-competitive work-a-day world is the truly saddening statistic that almost 60% of employed first-time mothers in the US return to work within just 12 weeks.
With so many of us feeling the pinch in the decade that has followed since that financial crash of 2008, it is little wonder that many have over-prioritized their working commitments during this period.
From the young couple unable to afford to buy their first property on their combined income, or the old couple who can’t afford to retire because the repayment on their mortgage got higher and higher, 21st century demands have placed new and increased demands both on our time, and on our bank balances.
Still, there is hope - more and more nations are implementing shorter working weeks with Germany giving workers the option of being able to reduce their weekly hours from 35 to 28 for up to two years to look after their families.
However, in the US, our working week ranks 14th in a study of 38 of the world’s most developed countries with the average man or woman working around 34 hours per week.
So, if you’re feeling overworked or badly in need of a better work-life balance, here are 7 ways that might just help you get back on track.
1) Learn to Say No!
For many of us, it really can be difficult to utter that little word when presented with a request to work longer hours or help-out with an additional tasks, but learning to say no is a vital part of achieving a healthy work-life balance.
While you might want to impress or make a good impression, it can be counter-productive to be seen as someone who is always available.
Stop accepting tasks because of guilt or a false sense of obligation and you’ll soon find that you have more time for the things that are important to you.
2) Manage your Time
If you don’t enjoy a certain activity or task, you might want to try delegating or at least discuss your concerns with your employer. Don’t waste your abilities.
It’s also important to be efficient at home. Organize your household tasks and don’t leave them to accumulate during the week. 30 minutes housework every day is much more appealing than 4 hours of chores on a Sunday.
3) Make Lists
Lists are a great way of organizing your day and your brain. Having tasks written down also seems to make them a lot less intimidating than when they are floating aimlessly around the back of your mind.
Keep a daily to-do list at home and at work - planning your day helps you to maintain focus and discipline.
When you don’t have plans, it’s much easier to find yourselves drawn into the plans of others.
4) Leave Work at Work
With most of the world now seemingly connected by the click of a button, it seems that there are fewer and fewer boundaries between our homes and our working environments but it’s vital for our health and wellbeing that we endeavor to separate our work time from our personal time.
Make a conscious decision to make more time for your private life, and try to leave the stress of your day behind you. If you make the choice to separate your working and personal life, you might be amazed at the improvements you can make to your work-life balance.
5) Check your Email and Phone Less...Much Less!
How many of us are guilty of checking our email every hour? Or worse?
Indeed, such is our addiction to information, a 2015 study revealed that almost 34% of American consumers say they check their email "throughout the day."
The same survey found that consumers look at their phone more than 150 times a day, on average. 150 times? What a sorry statistic that truly is.
At what point in history did we decide to become part human/part smart-phone?
It is essential that we enforce personal limits on both our phones and email. While that isn’t always easy, it one of the easiest ways to boost your productivity.
If you want to achieve a better work-life balance, cut down on your constant phone use and try to limit email checking to three occasions in the day - late morning, early afternoon and later in the day.
When we start our day by checking our emails, not only do we ignore those around us, but we also focus and respond to other people’s issues rather than attending to our own.
6) Take Care of Yourself!
It’s obvious, but can never be repeated enough - A healthy lifestyle is essential to reducing stress and achieving a positive and healthy work-life balance.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get enough sleep
7) And finally….Make Time for Fun!
Well, we only get one shot at planet earth and while our jobs are important to us, they are in fact, just a part of our lives. We must never allow them to become our lives.
Remember, our lives are to be lived, breathed and loved in each and every day. Stop and smell the roses once in a while. Enjoy the beauty and nature that exists in our world and make time for the better things in life. Share your time with your family, your partner, and your loved ones.
At the end of the day, or the end of our lives, we won’t get the chance to recover that time, so do it while you can.
You won’t regret it.