Over the last decades, the concept of ‘work-life balance’ has gained massive popularity among researchers and HR managers. In our current social and economic context, achieving balance between your personal and professional life is one of the keys to robust health and well-being.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for many of us to tamper with this fine balance by working overtime, skipping meals, and neglecting recreational activities. And the outcomes are often detrimental to our overall physical and mental.
Maintaining a healthy balance between your personal and professional life is a matter of discipline and habit. Luckily, there are plenty of strategies you can use to avoid problems associated with work-life imbalance.
What is work-life balance?
Many of us understand that in order to live a happy and healthy life, we need to find a middle ground between a successful career and a fulfilling personal life.
Work-life balance is the result of numerous individual, family, organisational, and societal factors. It’s the ‘sweet spot’ between putting in enough office hours to guarantee a flourishing career and getting some well-deserved ‘me’ time.
But optimal work-life balance is more than just the key to personal well-being. In fact, experts believe optimal work-life balance and a high sense of well-being among employees lead to enhanced performance, especially in highly competitive business environments.
In a way, keeping your personal and professional life in balance is like riding a bike. If one wheel gets out of balance, you risk falling off. Optimal balance between work and life means that at the end of a working day, you have enough energy and spare time to invest in fun or educational activities that contribute to your personal growth and well-being.
But what happens when our personal and professional life is out of balance?
The risks of ‘messing’ with the work-life balance
As more and more professionals enter the labour market and companies are constantly looking to cut expenditures by closing positions, today’s employees feel pressured to work overtime and produce spectacular results day in, day out.
The desire to have full control over the factors that affect our lives is in our nature. We want to thrive on all levels, and we are ready to do whatever it takes to achieve that picture-perfect life.
Sadly, our unrealistic expectations can often drive us to neglect our personal life for the sake of professional achievements. And the worst part is that this mentality can quickly lead to work-life imbalances, with devastating consequences on our overall health and well-being.
Some of the most common problems that are a direct consequence of poor work-life balance are stress and burnout. In turn, these conditions can cause depression, anxiety, and serious physical conditions.
Burnout is a term used in psychology to describe a state of mental and physical exhaustion that results from exposing yourself to a stressful environment for prolonged periods. According to a recent study, this condition has worsened from 2011 to 2014.
To avoid physical exhaustion, poor performance, emotional distress, and other negative consequences that result from poor work-life balance, there are a couple of tips to follow.
Simple tips to help you maintain work-life balance
1. Delegate tasks
One way to maintain an optimal balance between personal and professional life and avoid working yourself into an early grave is by delegating your tasks.
Delegation is rightly considered one of the most difficult and complex lessons for today’s employees. And that’s because delegating tasks involves trust. In other words, you need to find someone who you believe has what it takes to deliver top results.
But delegating tasks doesn’t mean giving your colleagues the hardest tasks or transferring your routine activities – the ones you think are ‘boring’ or ‘trivial’ – to someone else.
Effective delegation is when you transfer tasks that you believe fit best with the other person’s abilities and experience.
2. Add some ‘personal’ time to your busy agenda
This is probably the most important step toward optimal work-life balance. Too often we find ourselves ‘stuffing’ our schedule with work-related tasks hoping to get things done as fast as possible.
But as you’ve probably noticed, once you complete a task another one pops up. And so, you find yourself in a never-ending race driven by your thirst for productivity and results.
Sadly, all work and no play can quickly drain your motivation and leave you on the brink of burnout. In fact, there are times when our body send us clear signals (headaches, exhaustion, nausea, insomnia) but we choose to ignore them and keep on pushing until we find ourselves on a hospital bed.
To avoid such unpleasant scenarios, make sure to add some ‘personal’ time to your busy schedule. Something that helps you relax and unwind after a busy day.
Remember, fun activities are just as important as productive activities.
3. Learn how to say ‘No’ occasionally
One of the reasons why we sometimes find ourselves swamped with work is that we take on more than we can handle.
Whether it’s because we’re people pleasers or we’re simply afraid we might lose our job, we sometimes find ourselves overburdened by tasks that aren’t necessarily ours. This, in turn, leads to an overbooked schedule that will eventually take a toll on your health.
An excellent way to avoid disturbing the work-life balance is learning to say no from time to time. And it doesn’t have to be a cold, heartless no.
All you have to do is simply explain that while you would gladly lend a helping hand, you just don’t have the time or energy for an extra task. In the end, your overall health and well-being should be the #1 priority.
4. Never skip holidays
Skipping holidays is another one of those compromises we make for the sake of productivity. How can we think about white sand beaches or mountain trips, when there’s so much to accomplish!?
Although we’re perfectly aware that a well-deserved break is exactly what we need to recharge our batteries, we somehow convince ourselves that one or two extra weeks off work will make a difference in our career path.
But as we mentioned before, all work and no play can quickly ruin the balance between your personal and professional life.
Long story short, take a holiday at least once a year, set aside some time for daily fun activities, delegate tasks to avoid getting swamped, and don’t be afraid to say no once in a while.