We often read about the importance of getting the work life balance correct and the impact that doing this can have on the quality of life experienced by employees. What does this look like in practice though and how can we ensure that we encourage the best work life balance for ourselves and others in an ever-changing work landscape?
In order to answer this, we will break the subject down into two questions: “What is work life balance?” and “Why is work life balance important?”. We have taken a look at these two distinct but related questions below.
What is Work Life Balance?
Work life balance refers to the ability to separate your work life and your home life successfully and to prosper in each of them. There are many factors that tend to negatively affect work life balance and we have mentioned some of these below:
One of the major factors in having a negative work life balance is an excessive workload. Being expected to complete an unreasonable amount of work by your employers can mean that employees are being forced into taking work home and continuing there, at the expense of their free time, relaxation and mental health.
If the employee happens to be married or cohabiting, being forced to work outside of contracted hours to complete excessive work can also put increasing pressure on their relationship and potentially lead to these breaking down.
It can be difficult for employees to address this as they don’t want to be seen as failing at their jobs. Some will experience a strong sense of self-doubt during this time and possibly impostor syndrome, in which they question their ability to successfully do the job.
Trouble with Time Management
Many people can have trouble managing their time and this becomes more obvious when it begins to affect work life balance in their household. Poor time management can often be an indicator for a mental health problem, such as ADHD and it may be that employees can get a diagnosis and begin to deal with the problems that they are facing.
If the time management problem isn’t mental-health related, the problem may be that the employee is in need of upskilling to learn to use some of the excellent tools that are on the market today. Training and upskilling should help them to juggle everything that they have in their home and work life a lot more successfully and reduce any feelings of workplace depression arising from this.
Working from Home
Working from home can be a brilliant opportunity for many as they are able to work from the comfort of their own homes and skip the commute. It can also be a source of friction in the household as the lines between work and home life become ever more blurred.
Try to ensure that any meetings are kept strictly to the working day, as this can help to set some healthy boundaries. It is also possible to turn off your phone at night when not at work so that you are one of the last to be contacted outside of working hours. Some employers may not like this but again it is part of setting healthy boundaries between your work and your private life.
Why is Work Life Balance Important?
There are several reasons why having a good balance between your working life and your home life is important. Your interpersonal relationships with family and friends can suffer when you are never available and always working and this can take a great toll on your level of happiness. Your work friends may notice that you are beginning to struggle interpersonally when all that you are able to bring to conversations is talk of work.
It may be that you are working toward career progression within your company and that you are doing all that you can to make this happen. Working harder isn’t always the way to bring about successful career advancement. It very much depends on the company and what is noticed and appreciated by the management and directors. It can be all very well knocking it out of the park in terms of your work if there is nobody in the company who is set up to look at the work you are doing and reward it accordingly.
This can lead to unhappiness and discontent that hard work is going unrewarded by career progression. In terms of employee retention, this isn’t an ideal situation and there is a large skills gap in the UK at the moment because of the effects of Brexit and “the great resignation” of 2020/2021. It may be worth discussing the situation with your employer at this stage as they will likely not want to get into a new recruitment process.
A good work life balance is also important from the perspective of your physical and mental health. Not being able to carve out time to take care of your personal fitness or to cook yourself healthy and nutritious meals can harm your well-being and impact your health in the longer term. It is therefore important to ensure that you are able to take the time to do these small things that can make such a difference in your life.
If your bosses are not prepared to respect your stated boundaries and ask you to spend time doing work tasks outside of your contracted hours, it may be time to look into the possibility of a new job. A refusal to respect boundaries between work and private life can signify a larger problem in terms of the respect offered to employees by the employer and it is definitely something that can have a negative impact on otherwise happy staff.
If you cannot find a way to achieve a good work life balance, it may be time to seek a new job where this is more of a possibility than at your current one.