For many of us, our jobs play an important part in our lives. From feeding the family and paying the bills to funding adventures and giving us a sense of purpose, building a career is very much a part of our society. But it’s important to remember it’s only one part of our lives.
Having a good work/life balance is key to living a healthy, happy life. It gives us time to de-stress, to socialise, build meaningful relationships, make memories and most importantly, to relax.
What is work/life balance?
Work/life balance is the term used to explain the idea that all of us need time for both work and play. Your work/life balance is how you organise your days, for example, how many hours you spend at work, and how much time you spend doing things you enjoy outside of work.
While the general definition is clear, in reality, it’s not quite so simple to maintain. Work/life balance will vary from person to person, depending on our lifestyles as a whole. Age, for example, can make your balance different to a colleague or a friend.
If you’re entering the start of your career, perhaps in your early twenties you may be more dedicated to building skills, knowledge, career progression and having fun. As you grow older and are more settled in your job, it’s a common pattern that your priorities start to shift. You may start thinking about building a family, as well as career progression or maintaining your career.
If you’re stable and established in your career, hypothetically in your fifties it’s common your focus may have shifted from work to other aspects of your life. You may have spent a large part of your life building your career alongside raising a family; now thoughts are turning towards more personal goals and activities, holidays and other things that you weren’t able to do previously.
Wherever you are in your life, the overall premise is the same when it comes to work/life balance, as it’s so important to help maintain a positive state of emotional well-being.
Why is it important?
Nowadays, pressure to perform at work is paramount and so we spend much of our lives in the workplace. Whether you’re in an office five days a week, or working shifts, it’s common that the day doesn’t always end when you leave for home. With technology at our disposal, we’re always contactable; we can work from home, check emails on-the-go and send a text to a colleague at the click of a button.
Without a good work/life balance, exhaustion, stress and burnout can make an appearance so it’s essential we take time to relax, unwind and enjoy other aspects of our lives.
If you’re stressed and unhappy in your role but are unable to take a break or make a career move, it’s common that your work and personal life may suffer. Poor work/life balance can leave you unmotivated, short-tempered and emotional. When stress is not addressed, your emotional well-being suffers and gradually your physical health can deteriorate.
Work is just one part of life. It may be an important part, but it is still just one part. Maintaining our health and happiness is vital - we should feed our passions, build relationships and enjoy our lives. We’re only human and we crave comfort and adventure. Maintaining a good work/life balance can ensure we’re chasing our personal dreams, but flourishing at work, too.
Understanding the problem
Of course, before you can make things better, you need to understand the problem. It may be clear to you already (a particular project at work or a conflict with a colleague perhaps) but, for some, it may be less obvious and a slow decline.
If you’re yet to pinpoint the problem but are experiencing signs of stress, or if you think you have a good work/life balance, yet people are telling you otherwise, consider keeping a diary. For an idea of your current work/life balance, record everything you do for a week, and make note of how long you spend doing each activity, both at work and at home. You may also find it helpful to record everything you eat and when, how you feel and how much sleep you’re getting.
At the end of the week, access everything you’ve done. Highlight everything to do with work in one colour, and then highlight mealtimes, sleeping routine and ‘play’ in other colours. When you’ve coloured all the sections in, analyse if there are any patterns.
If the majority of your week is taken up with the work colour, including weekends and non-working hours, it’s clear that you’re lacking balance in your life. When you can see where your current priorities lie, you can start to work out where healthy changes need to be made.
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