Maintaining a Work-Life BalanceJune 15, 2018
Many of us in long-term employment have to deal with the stress and boredom that comes with it. Some of us manage to cope with a huge workload effortlessly, perhaps even reveling in it, and manage to find opportunities for quality time with friends and family outside of work, but many of us struggle up with the demands that our occupations make of us.
Whether it’s coming to work with puffed-up eyes and a cup of strong coffee in your hand because you chose to stay up too late, or constantly checking your phone on holiday for work emails and eleventh-hour assignments, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is like balancing on a tightrope between burning out and getting fired.
The Consequences of A Poor Work-Life Balance
People that struggle to make time for themselves tends to suffer more from stress-related illnesses and even mood disorders like depression, as the mind struggles to cope with the loss of control and autonomy it now faces. It can also aggravate and worsen already existing conditions: as we all should know by now, stress kills. Literally, in some cases, as the Japanese phenomenon of Karōshi demonstrates.
Nobody: not you, nor your workmates or your boss should work past the point of damaging their physical and mental well-being. There’s the obvious moral considerations behind such a viewpoint, but there’s also the simple, pragmatic consideration: depressed, burnt-out or overstressed workers produce work of inferior quality, especially if the cause of their exhaustion is the job itself.
Unfortunately, many employees have to struggle with the fact that the companies they work for don’t acknowledge the things that can affect a work-life balance – stuff like working from home after hours, being on-call in certain fields, irregular shifts that cut into free time and disrupt sleep cycles can all sway the balance in work’s favour, to the detriment of the worker.
What you can do:
As a result, keeping you or your workforce healthy is an effort that requires effort from both parties. Where employees can start if they need to fix their work-life balance is:
Learning to say ‘No’: Most work cultures encourage its employees to go the extra mile and push for milestones, but a healthy work culture should allow you to decline extra work if you have other plans for the day. Obviously, be polite about it!
Make a Work-Life Wall: When your attitudes from work seep into your free time at home or down the pub, it can be immensely difficult to actually enjoy that free time when upcoming deadlines or stressful work experiences sneak their way into your head.
When you leave the workplace, you should leave the stress at the door and try your best to avoid habits like checking office emails when you’re out of work, unless you’re expecting something urgent.
Ask for help: A lot of people can’t bear the idea of asking for help: sometimes it’s out of pride, sometimes it’s because you don’t want to burden others with your concerns, but quietly hanging on in desperation is not conducive to a healthy work-life balance. If you feel work is becoming too overwhelming, ask your coworkers or superior to give you more time or delegate the task to someone else.
Remember to take care of yourself: Perhaps the most basic aspect of a work-life balance but frequently neglected, people in high-stress jobs frequently forget to eat properly, exercise, or take some time away from the glow of the monitor, TV or phone.
Instead of going out and buying some ready-to-eat fast food for lunch, consider bringing a packed lunch or purchasing healthier snacks. Get out of the chair and have a walk about at break times, just remember to break out of unhealthy habits when they’re no longer workable.
What Your Employer Can Do:
For business owners and other policymakers in an organisation, consider the following:
- Offering longer or more frequent breaks
- Encourage employees to take paid holidays before they burn out
- Encourage your employees to stretch or perform basic exercises
While some of these may result in slightly lower productivity from employees in the short term, a burnt-out employee will be a long-term burden if they’re struggling with the work-life balance.
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