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What A Healthy Work-Life Balance Can Do For You
A proper balance improves your mental and physical well-being while helping your career
Hustle culture has turned our work-life balance into a broken scale. Whether this is happening because we feel we need to put work first in order to get ahead or to afford our lifestyle, work is taking more and more of our time — and our lives are shrinking a little more each day. But having a proper balance doesn’t just improve your mental and physical well-being, it can help your career as well.
Times are changing
A recent study is shaking up the way people think about work. In the past (notably pre-pandemic era), people reported caring more about salary than having a proper work-life balance. These two have now switched spots, according to a recent study by Aviva, which found that 41% of respondents chose their current job for the balance it provides, while 36% said they chose their job based on salary. While employee's priorities are changing, their actual work relationship is not. Almost 95% of those in the professional service industry work more than 50 hours a week, and those are only the hours on the clock. Many employees say they work on weekends or after work, unpaid.
Over-worked and over it
For many, the benefits of more money or potential promotions might help them justify these longer hours. But the reality is that the negatives far outweigh the positives. Working longer hours has the obvious effect of less time doing what you love, spending time with family and friends or exercising. Many also report eating less healthy food and ordering out more as preparing meals at home takes up too much time. Burnout is also a major issue that can derail your mental health and even put your job on the line. With 77% of people reporting they have faced this issue, it’s a scary reality. You might have even experienced the symptoms of this without realizing, being:
- Consistent exhaustion and low energy levels
- Negative thoughts towards yourself, others, or your job
- Distancing yourself from work
- Reduced productivity in all aspects of your life
Many employers are also to blame for increasing workloads or giving tighter and tighter deadlines for projects. Working from home has offered a great way for many to achieve a work-life balance, but for others it has thrown their schedules even more out of whack. Some remote works report feeling “on call” 24/7, answering phone calls and emails while playing with their kids or eating dinner. Add it all together and tack on the increasing cost of living, and it might seem impossible to achieve any sort of balance at all.
A more balanced tomorrow
Luckily, there are many ways to work towards a more balanced work and life relationship. The Harvard Business Review recently wrote an article that described work-life balance as a cycle instead of an all-or-nothing achievement. Building good habits doesn’t mean you have to neglect moving up the corporate ladder or never take on extra work. When it comes to employers, newer statistics and the commitment of employees to a healthier lifestyle have encouraged them to offer more ways to balance the load as well.
Finding that work-life balance can help you:
- Manage responsibilities at home and work without feelings of guilt or regret
- Improve your quality of life
- Improve your physical health and mental well-being
- Give you a chance to reach personal goals
- Actually improve your work
- Lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels
- Spend more time with your children or loved ones
The main hurdle to get over when starting this journey is your own perception of what you have to do to be good at work. So keeping that in mind, how do you start the process?
- Pause. Take a moment to assess how you are feeling, what is causing you stress and how it is affecting your work and home life. Most people don’t consider their current lifestyle until a major change forces them to, like the birth of a child or losing a job. Being able to take a moment before those events happen can help you adjust your priorities and avoid negative outcomes.
- Take inventory of your feelings. Feeling overwhelmed often takes priority over other emotions. You might feel like everything is too much. Truly assessing your feelings and seeing what makes you happy and what makes you angry or resentful helps you choose what changes you want to make.
- Make note of what you are choosing and what you are losing. It might be easy to continue working over your assigned hours when you’re already in the zone. However, pausing and considering what you are missing out on by doing that, like a family dinner or a meetup with friends, might make you reconsider.
- Consider other options. Once you have your priorities set, think of what you can change to reach those new goals. Maybe a more flexible schedule, a talk with your boss about deadlines, or even setting a personal timer so you don’t work more than you want. This can be especially helpful if your main problem is working too much during your free time.
- Don’t be afraid to switch jobs. This might be easier said than done for most, but finding a job you truly love or a company that encourages the balance you need can be life-changing. There is nothing stopping you from looking while you're still working at your current position. This doesn’t always mean switching careers, simply leaving a toxic job for the same work in a different environment can be the positive switch you need.
- Take your health seriously. If you have company-funded (or personal) healthcare, use it to your full advantage. Take those paid sick days. This doesn’t just mean your physical health, either. If you have anxiety or depression, therapy can be a huge game-changer. Beyond that, little daily changes like meditation or exercise can vastly improve your mood and health.
- Unplug! Our smartphones are great for many things, but creating a work-life balance is not one of them. You might find yourself inclined to “just quickly answer this one email that came in” and before you know it you’re two hours into responding on your off-time. Though it might take a learning curve, turning your phone and computer off for a set amount of time can force you to take that much-needed break.
A work-life balance is more than just a popular buzz phrase, it is needed for your mental and physical health. Taking a much-needed breath and assessing your current life is the first stepping stone in the journey towards this balance. Remember, it isn’t all or nothing. You can still take on overtime when you want or enjoy that two-week long vacation using your stored-up PTO. The key here is to do those things without feeling guilt because you know you have properly assessed your personal goals and priorities to make the best decisions for you.