Work-life balance - Do we work to live or live to work?

What is a work life balance and how do I achieve it?

A ‘work life’ balance refers to a persons ability to maintain a healthy balance between their work life, their personal life, commitments, and family life. The issue being that work responsibilities are increasing, wages are stagnant, people are working longer hours and this is resulting in a conflict between personal and work commitments and an increase in stress. Like most people I want to have a better work life balance.

Working 40 hour weeks with overtime in a stressful job does not always give me the optimum mental and physical well-being that I crave. However there are things that we can do to try and achieve the work life balance that is so important.

What you can do to make life that little bit easier?

  • Set your alarm clock just a bit earlier Monday to Friday - Give yourself enough time to shower, get ready for work, have breakfast, make lunch and if you have them get the kids ready. We all do it, get up late and then rush around trying to get ourselves and everything ready. By the time you get into work you are running late, stressed and irritated.

  • Exercise regularly - Once you do get into the habit of setting an alarm and getting up a bit earlier, further push yourself to go for a jog or to the gym before work. It is not easy but it will set you up for the day with a positive mindset. There is nothing wrong with exercising after work, but you will probably just want to get home, rather than go to a busy gym. Additionally a run after work is quicker and easier than a busy gym.

  • Set tasks and work smart - Every Monday make a list of all the things that you need to do in the working week for work and home. Whether this be in a notebook or on email or word. This will mean that you will hopefully not get caught out by unplanned meetings and other tasks/deadlines. Prioritise and plan ahead.

  • Take a worthwhile lunch to work - Save money and eat a healthy nutrient rich lunch that you have prepared at home. Lunch that has been bought from the shop is expensive and is full of sugar and salt.

  • Go for a walk and re-set your mind for the afternoon ahead. In fact go outside as much as possible throughout the day and do not stare at the computer constantly. Think about having walk and talk meetings in person or on the phone. Walk round the office, up stairs, and stand when chatting.

  • Do not be afraid to say no - Your workload may be getting larger and you may be getting more stressed but do not be afraid to say no to more work. Ask for help and more time if you have deadlines. Communicate to others and do not be afraid to ask to extend a deadline, this is much better than telling someone on the day a project needs to be done that it is not ready.

  • Turn off that computer and phone - When you walk out of the office door at 5pm turn off your work phone and work laptop. Do not be afraid to ignore work when you are not there. This is your time and time you should be spending with the family, exercising or relaxing. If you do have to work at home in the evening or at the weekend be strict with your times and clear space in the house to work, so you get the work done away from distractions.

  • Book time off - Plan holidays and book time off in advance. Give yourself something to look forward to away from work. You will not then be disappointed when your last minute leave is denied.

  • Get to bed at a decent time and put the electronics away - It is very easy to get caught up in a Netflix binge and before you know it is 11.30pm. Try to go to bed at a decent time and give yourself 7-9 hours of quality sleep. Make sure the bedroom is dark and a comfortable temperature. If you can leave your phone charging elsewhere you will not be tempted to look at your phone before sleeping. If you do lay there with thoughts/worries/problems going around your mind, get up and jot these down for the morning.

How can you avoid a poor work-life balance?

  • Do not get distracted by work issues before you get to work, leave emails and phone calls for the office.

  • Do not go from meeting to meeting without a break. Give yourself time to have a drink, a break, and preparation time for the next meeting

  • Do not work through your lunch break sat at your desk, drinking coke and eating an unhealthy sugar and salt laden lunch.

  • Do not just say yes to every task or job you are given. Make sure you have time to work on and finish your current work load.

  • Do not work late and then go home and carry on working.

  • Do not skip exercising due to work loads and other work pressure.

  • Do not cancel or ignore asking for time off just because of your workload and the fear of being given more work.

  • Do not eat an unhealthy dinner, stay up late and miss valuable time with your family just because you are working and replying to emails etc.

The startling facts are this, according to the Health and Safety executive:

  • 526,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) in 2016/17

  • 12.5 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17

This shows how vital it is to do everything you can to obtain that ideal work-life balance.

Further sources and publications to help you to obtain work life balance - Resources and publications

The Guardian - Tips for a better work life balance

The Happiness - The importance of a work life balance

Family Lives - How to keep a work-life balance


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