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Improving and Maintaining a Work-Life Balance That Works For You

Improving and Maintaining a Work-Life Balance That Works For You

New year, new goals and priorities. A popular realization among professionals in 2024 is the need for a better work-life balance. In fact, 72% of workers believe work-life balance is an important factor when choosing a job, and 57% of job-seekers say a poor work-life balance is a dealbreaker when they’re considering a new job.

Work-life balance can be defined as one’s ability to achieve job goals and responsibilities to be satisfied in personal aspects of life. Employees can measure work-life balance by how well they manage work about how much they value their private lives and desires.

Simply put, work-life balance is “a state of equilibrium which the demands of both a person’s job and personal life are equal.” Although this state of equilibrium is one employees often strive for, employers attempt to find the same balance while also helping employees achieve a balance of their own. Everyone battles with finding a work-life balance. For many, it is a learning curve that spans a career. Employees and leaders tend to struggle with work-life balance because investing in work creates opportunities for personal life and allows families to achieve healthy personal lives, yet sometimes we invest too much into work which causes important parts of our personal lives to diminish.

What An Unbalanced Work-Life Might Feel Like

It can be challenging to recognize whether our work and life are balanced. It is easy to let one aspect outpower the other until slowly we recognize a need for change. Here are some signs and symptoms that you may be experiencing an unbalanced work-life:

  • Irritable
  • Neglecting relationships
  • Spending less time dedicated to hobbies and passions
  • Taking more absences or sick leave than usual
  • Unorganized spaces
  • Tired due to poor sleep
  • Unproductive - putting in more time at work but producing less
  • Feelings of stress and anxiousness about work, friends, and family
  • Low motivation and passion for work and personal life

Causes

We can experience an unbalanced work-life balance due to different pressures and causes. Sometimes we experience changes in our job, whether that is taking on more responsibility or added expenses at work without adjusted pay. We might take on bigger projects or start working more hours. On the other end, we might experience changes at home or in our personal lives that put more stress on our lives and work such as gaining more responsibility at home, having children, or experiencing grief or hardships. 

Why Balancing Life And Work Is Important

In general, a balanced life protects our happiness. It lowers our stress and the potential for burnout. We also experience fewer health issues when we have a good work-life balance, including less pain and injury.

Balancing work and life also allows for a more efficient, enjoyable, and successful workplace.

Serious Risks

When life and work become unbalanced, we can be faced with serious risks. People who have an unbalanced work-life are 33% more likely to develop a heart disease. In fact, working just three more hours of overtime increases the risk of heart disease by 60%. Folks with poor work-life balance are also 42% more likely to develop mental health disorders like anxiety or depression. An unbalanced work-life follows us through our lifetime and can shorten it; people with unbalanced work lives are 23% more likely to have a premature death.

What Is Considered a Good Balance?

A “good” work-life balance means something different for everyone. Here are some signs that can help us pinpoint whether or not we are achieving a balance that serves us well:

  • Feeling satisfied with your work
  • Feeling happy about how you spend your free time 
  • Meeting deadlines without overextending yourself 
  • Getting good sleep and feeling refreshed in the morning
  • Having distinct separation by leaving work at the office
  • Feeling good both mentally and physically
  • Increased productivity
  • Boundaries are strong and well-maintained 
  • Your routines have become consistent
  • Spending more time pursuing hobbies and becoming curious about new subjects

Ways To Maintain Balance

Like a habit, work-life balance needs consistency and maintenance to succeed in the long term. Consider and try the following when analyzing and adjusting your work-life balance.

  1. Create a consistent night and morning routine that allows for adequate sleep and time for yourself. 
  2. Take time off. If you have no obligations that require time off, take some time off for “me” days or use the time off to work on enhancing your personal life by focusing on relationships or hobbies.
  3. Do something that you enjoy every day. Prioritizing yourself is crucial for a balanced life as it forces us to slow down, reflect, and refocus.
  4. Keep your work and personal spaces organized and tidy often to maintain spaces that allow for focus and mental clarity.
  5. Work on your time management skills. To spend a balanced amount of time between work and personal life, we need to learn to manage our time wisely.

GettaMeeting has multiple meeting modules to help you and your team learn and practice how to better manage your personal time and time at work. Check out GettaMeeting’s meeting module “Improve Time Management: Rapid Refocus” and others at gettameeting.com

6. Don’t be afraid to take many breaks. Consistently taking short breaks throughout the day helps us avoid workaholism, feel refreshed and motivated, and recalibrate.

7. Prioritize tasks to avoid overworking on smaller, less significant tasks.

8. Create a clear separation between work and home if you work remotely. Work in a different room than the one you relax in or put all of your work tools away and out of sight after work.

Just as employees can take steps to ensure a healthy work-life balance, employers can work to create a balance for themselves while giving their employees the tools to create a healthy balance as a team. Here are some ideas for leadership and how they can help their team achieve work-life balance:

  1. Host events that promote wellness and relaxation. This can be something like a casual team-building event, movie night, or light physical exercise class. The bottom line is to communicate to team members that their wellness is a priority and that you want to support them in achieving not only work objectives but goals in their personal lives as well. 
  2. Create Employee Assistance Programs to provide different services for your team such as drug and alcohol abuse counseling, family and marriage counseling, stress issues, and more. These programs increase employee retention, motivation and productivity and lower absenteeism, health costs, and stress-related illnesses.
  3. Hold yourself to a standard of only scheduling work to be done during regular working hours. This shows respect for employees’ time and shows your team how to (and that it is okay to) set clear time boundaries at work.
  4. Clearly and often communicate policies and information around PTO and sick leave so that employees are reminded to take days off when they need it.
  5. Recognize employees who consistently show up and show out at work. Reward these folks by granting them time off, giving them small gifts, or letting them leave early or arrive at the office late to give them more time for personal errands and responsibilities.,
  6. Ask about employees’ statuses in private. When providing or asking for feedback, ask employees about their well-being and specifically how they are juggling work and life. Don’t pry for personal details yet communicate that you care about their wellness and want to support a healthy work-life balance.
  7. Prioritize flexibility for employees. Provide as much flexibility for employees as appropriate, such as opportunities to work from home or allow employees to customize their hours. 90% of employees state that a flexible work schedule would increase morale and 89% of HR professionals see an increase in employee retention after rolling out more flexible work policies.

Final Thoughts: What To Keep In Mind When Finding a Balance

When balancing work and life, our “resources” are limited, meaning we cannot give our all to everything. Therefore, prioritizing what we give our resources to is essential in creating a balanced work-life. Sometimes we give too many of our resources to work which leads us to struggle with home duties and relationships. Similarly, when we invest too much energy into personal endeavors, we struggle to perform well at work.

Practicing mindfulness is key to managing stress and avoiding an unbalance in work or life. Be aware of what drains you, how you’re using your energy, and how you are spending your time. Take breaks often to avoid burnout and practice staying present. Breaks are also good opportunities to change your plans and update schedules to reflect a better balance as work and life change throughout the day and week.

It is also important to embrace flexibility instead of relying on rigidity. Learning to be flexible helps us tend to work and life more equally and find more comfortable ways to fulfill our obligations. If your work provides more flexible hours or policies, figure out how you can best use the flexibility to build a better work-life balance.

As always, open communication solves many of our stress issues and makes us feel more secure and confident in our job. Check in with a manager often about the expectations of your job and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback or advice if you discover a stress point at work.

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