Work-life balance has been a prevalent issue for workers in the UK for decades. It’s the fine line between wanting to advance your career and giving your all to the business you work for and losing out on precious personal and family time as a result.
As a modern-day issue, it’s one which has become exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The issue with work-life balance comes from people theoretically taking their work home with them. So, with 35.9% of non-furloughed UK workers working from home in the UK in 2020, it stands to reason that the risks are high for work-life balance to become affected.
This has been shown by research early in the pandemic by the CIPD who found that, of 6,000 surveyed workers, “number of people saying work has a positive impact on their mental health had fallen from 44% to 35%. In addition, those that had experienced anxiety within the previous 12 months, 69% said their job was a contributing factor. Of those who’d experienced depression, 58% said the same was true.”
Health and Wellbeing
The ultimate reason for looking to attain a healthy work-life balance should be for personal reasons. Your health and wellbeing should always remain your priority.
Poor work-life balance can manifest itself in different ways, often going un-noticed or undiagnosed. There are the more common mental effects, such as anxiety and stress, which can take their toll. It can also have physical drawbacks, with fatigue and fluctuations of weight also being common.
In addition, Burnout has recently been classified as a legitimate medical condition by the World Health Organisation. It is defined by three main signifiers:
- feelings of prolonged exhaustion or lack of energy throughout the day.
- Increased feelings of negativity or cynicism in one’s job where it was not there before.
- Reduced personal efficacy.
In the midst of a busy period at work, and with the additional stresses of the last 18+ months, your mental health may take a backseat.
We’re all guilty of working late to write that last email, or to try and knock off some items from our to-do list while the phones are quiet. But when we physically take our work home with us, this can be even more impactful. That’s why it’s important to set up some boundaries between work and home.
While this may be easier said than done in some jobs, it does not necessarily mean telling your boss you want to work less; rather, finding ways to differentiate between designated work time and personal time, and manage your workload differently.
There are small, manageable steps which can be taken to help promote your work-life balance.
We’re not all blessed with having a spare home office, or a spare room to work from. But any steps which can be taken to create a designated workspace are important. Even a simple move from working on your sofa to putting a desk in another room of the house can work wonders for creating a border.
Also ensuring your work phone doesn’t cross this border, or that work notifications are muted or paused, helps discourage picking up added stress in your own time.
It may feel alien to leave your work until the next time you’re due in, but it’s important to remain strict and vigilant on this. Your personal time is best spent on yourself and your family, which will in turn mean you can give your best the next time you’re on the clock.
It’s easy to achieve this when working from an office, as the physical and geographical distance helps to create the border; however, we must remember to do the same for ourselves when at home.
Exercise is crucial for helping with mental health. While it’s not a one-size-fits-all remedy, and it’s one of many things to do, the positives are there to be seen.
For the best possible results, we have to find a way to exercise throughout the day. The body reacts better to regular movement, as opposed to one-hour spent in the gym alone. Removing yourself from your desk to do some simple exercises every hour throughout the day will help you physically, and also helps mentally.
There are countless advice columns out there offering fun ways to exercise in the home, including ones which focus on adding exercise into your working from home schedule.
Working at home should mean shorter commute times and, with your own kitchen at your disposal, should mean you have more time and ability to eat better. If you are finding yourself rushing meals in, or working until the last minute and not leaving time for preparation, this will affect your general wellbeing.
Healthy food is obviously therapeutic in itself, but the practice of making food and investing time and effort into meal preparation is also helpful.
Find new recipes, genres and styles; set time aside to get creative; or even just do the basics right. But ensuring you eat properly is hugely beneficial.
Bringing the Outside In
If you live in an apartment or do not have a garden, you will have noticed it during the pandemic. There are plenty of ways to create a natural atmosphere inside. In addition to looking good and creating cleaner air, there are psychological benefits to keeping plants.
Taking care of plants has been shown to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and even increase creativity. It also allows you a chance to remove yourself from your desk and indulge in self-care, by caring for something else. Ensuring you don’t rush the watering and cleaning process, taking time to enjoy it, will also be hugely impactful.
There are many more ways to ensure broader self-care is followed. Things which might usually be viewed as something less important, such as hair and skincare, should be enjoyed and savoured as opposed to rushed.
Listening to music or a podcast, enjoying a candle or oils, meditation, yoga or Mindfulness activities: these are just some of the traditional ways in which you can put a pause on your day and take time for yourself. No matter what position you work in, your job is always around servicing other people, so having some time to look after yourself is hugely important.
The actual activity itself is not as important. It’s all about achieving a sense of calm, looking inward and reflecting. Whatever way allows you to achieve this, make sure it’s prioritised.
As part of our ‘Less Viewing, More Doing’ campaign, we are focusing on drawing attention to the importance of a positive work-life balance, as well as highlighting some of the potential downsides and tips for avoidance.