How to strike a good work–life balance

This week is National Work Life Week, a campaign run by the UK charity Working Families to “give employers the chance to showcase how they provide work life balance for their staff.”

Finding a good work–life balance can be difficult, especially in the UK, where a culture of long working hours often tips the scales in favour of ‘work’. Research by Eurostat has revealed the UK has on average the longest working week for full-time workers compared to the rest of Europe, at around 41 hours per week. Evidence has shown that a skewed work–life balance can be unhealthy, leading to stress, burnout and physical health issues.

So how can we redress the balance and make sure that we get enough time for ourselves? Here are four things you can do to help find that all-important work–life balance.

  1. Set clear boundaries

A lot of workplace stress comes from feeling overwhelmed, out of control or short on time. This is why it’s so important to set clear boundaries for your working life. Do you tend to take on too many tasks because you think only you can do them right? Then it’s time to give someone else a chance to prove themselves. Are you staying late in the office because you spent all day on less pressing tasks, rather than the really important stuff? You must learn to prioritise your tasks and work through them in order. Skills such as time management, delegation and prioritisation will really help you to take control of your work and make it fit around you, rather than the other way around.

  1. Learn to say no

It can be tempting to say yes to every opportunity you’re offered, but the ability to say no is very important for maintaining a healthy work–life balance. You won’t be able to produce your best work on the projects that really matter if you’re spread too thinly, so before you say yes to anything, step back and take a realistic look at what really matters to you and what you can actually achieve in a day. And remember, relaxing and socialising should count as part of your schedule, so consider that time precious and avoid taking on extra work that will encroach on it.

  1. Listen to your body

When you’re overwhelmed with work, you can easily forget about your body, and clearly this is not good for your physical or mental health. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself regularly to really understand how you’re feeling, and to listen to what your body is telling you. Rather than ignoring that headache, pushing through that exhaustion, or squashing down that feeling of rising panic, recognise what you’re feeling and do something about it – even if that means taking a break!

  1. Keep putting in the effort

Unfortunately a healthy work–life balance is not something you can achieve once and keep forever –it requires constant effort to maintain. If you know your default is to prioritise work over life, then you’re going to have to consciously decide, every day, to set boundaries on your work and schedule in time for yourself. Once you recognise your unhealthy habits, you can tackle them, so rather than wishing you were different, look at how you actually behave and work with what you have. This is the only way to achieve real change, and you’ll thank yourself for it in the end!

You can join the conversation about work–life balance this week using the hashtag #WorkLifeWeek, or by sending this blog post to your staff to show them you support this important campaign.

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