Work-life balance is a hot topic in today’s connected world. Hiring managers will tell you how great their companies’ work and life balance is, and employees everywhere are looking for ways to improve their quality of life by finding the right ratio of business to personal responsibilities. But what is work-life balance? And why is work-life balance so important?
Work-life balance occurs when you are able to dedicate an equal amount of time and energy to both personal and professional pursuits. According to Mental Health America, the benefits of allocating healthy amounts of attention to your responsibilities at home and in the workplace are clear: people who maintain a healthy work-life balance experience less stress, increased productivity, and stronger immune systems.
Ready to experience some of those benefits for yourself? Try some of these tips for better work-life balance and discover a happier, healthier lifestyle in no time!
Like many of these tips for better work-life balance, this one stems from the idea that your career and leisure time should be kept separate. Set a time to stop checking your work email and begin focusing on your personal communications instead.
Make sure that you plan ahead for all of your office duties and responsibilities when you decide to shut down your work inbox. Considering that the reason why work-life balance is so important is that it allows your mind to recover from stressful work days, an inconsistent schedule is ultimately counterproductive. You should be able to stick to your email-deadline and fulfill your business obligations at least 99% of the time. If you tend to communicate with clients in different time zones, for example, you may have to adjust your email schedule to fit their business hours, rather than your own.
Disabling notifications for apps and programs that you use for your job is a highly effective strategy for how to achieve work-life balance because it has two major benefits. First, it prevents your professional duties from creeping into your personal life and creates a barrier between your homelife and the pressures of your job.
Secondly, stopping these alerts will help to minimize distractions and encourage you to focus on personal interests while at home. Disengaging completely from your job when you’re not “on the clock” will help you build and maintain your personal relationships and get the most out of your leisure time.
It’s ok to save a few extra vacation days in case of emergency, but don’t go years without a single day off. By taking care of certain obligations during the work week, such as doctor’s appointments, you free up the weekend to decompress and relax.
You can also use your time off to get together with friends and family. A strong support network is essential to maintaining optimal work and life balance.
When the question of how to achieve work-life balance is raised, many people immediately think of working from home. For some employees, especially those with long commutes, this can be a great way to balance travel time with responsibilities at home.
However, many professionals find that telecommuting has the opposite effect. Working from home makes it especially difficult to separate your career from your home-life. You must be meticulous about designating a work-only space in your home, as well as blocking out time dedicated solely to professional matters (i.e. time you won’t spend doing laundry or checking social media). If you’re someone who struggles with sticking to a schedule or forcing yourself to ignore distractions, then telecommuting may not be for you.
Flexible scheduling is the perfect example to show what work-life balance is. Changing when you begin and end your workday allows you to spend the same amount of time on the job, without forcing your personal life to conform to your work schedule. For example, parents might begin their days earlier and finish in time to pick their children up from school, or you could schedule a cable appointment in the morning, and simply stay late at work to make up the time you missed.
When you bring up the topic of a flexible schedule with your boss, one way to make a great case is to mention the importance of work-life balance to your ability to do your job. Will you need to take fewer personal days throughout the year if you don’t need to take off the whole day for a two hour appointment? Are you more productive at a particular time of day, and a flexible schedule would allow you to take advantage of that?
Any time you implement a new strategy to improve your work-life balance, make sure to communicate it with supervisors and coworkers who might be impacted. For example, if you will stop checking your work email after 6pm, inform your manager so they don’t expect a response to messages sent after that time. If you plan to shift your workday an hour or two later, make sure you loop the rest of your department in so no one is searching the office for you.
Achieving and sustaining work-life balance is an ongoing process. You will need to adapt your strategies for your specific needs and profession, and you may need to try a few different approaches to be successful. Kick off your pursuit of the perfect work-life balance with the tips above and check out these other on-the-job resources to help reach your full potential within and outside the workplace!