What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is about creating a happy equilibrium in a person’s professional and personal lives so that they feel mentally healthy, happy, and fulfilled – and will thus be at their best for their work and home lives. If an individual is feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, and/or experiencing physical ailments, this may mean that their work-life balance is out of balance.
Why are so many people experiencing a work-life unbalance?
Technology has been a blessing and a curse in the professional world. While it allows us to check in from virtually anywhere and at any time, which gives people more freedom away from the office, it also keeps us tethered to the office. Employees may feel pressure to get work done if they see an email drop in their inbox from their boss, even if it’s after-hours. Or they may feel pressure to respond to a work call or voicemail that hits their phone on the weekend. Mobile phones make it almost impossible to cut the cord between work and personal time.
This feeling or need to be “available” to their job all the time can lead to feelings of resentment, regret, anger, stress, and much more, including physical ailments such as hypertension, heart issues, weight gain, etc. All of the above can negatively impact the individual’s overall work performance – from a decrease in productivity to poor relationships in the office. These feelings will most likely affect the individual in their personal relationships.
How do you create a healthier work-life balance?
When I facilitate a wellness program for employees who are striving to achieve a balanced lifestyle, I recommend these four tips to create a healthier work-life balance.
Remember the Oxygen Mask Rule
Every time we fly, we hear flight attendants sharing some variation of the oxygen mask rule: Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Place the mask over your own mouth and nose first before assisting others.
Follow the oxygen mask rule in your everyday life. If you are not taking care of your needs, you will not be at your best for your clients, colleagues, family, and friends. Your work, personal life, and health will dramatically suffer.
Self-care means taking time to do the things that you enjoy and incorporating positive supports into your routine. Doing this will increase your mental and physical well-being. Here are tips and ideas on how to practice self-care.
- Take care of yourself. This means eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, caring for personal hygiene, and anything else that maintains good health.
- Make yourself a priority. There will always be other things to do, but don’t let them interrupt the time you set aside for self-care. Self-care should be given the same importance as other responsibilities.
- Set specific self-care goals (i.e., walk for 30 minutes every evening after dinner, meditate first thing in the morning, etc).
- Make self-care a habit by choosing activities that you enjoy.
- Maintain your boundaries and respect other people’s boundaries too.
- A few minutes of self-care is better than no self-care.
- Remember: self-care is not selfish.
Create a List of Non-Negotiables and Boundaries
The act of writing down a list will mean that you are more inclined to stick to it. Lists can serve as a reminder or an end-goal. Creating these two lists will help you stay on track towards a healthier work-life balance.
Create a positive list of non-negotiable habits, for example:
- Exercise 3 days per week
- Sleep 7-9 hours a night
- Practice a daily meditation
- Utilize stress management techniques
- Aim to cook healthy dinners 4 nights per week
Create a list of boundaries, for example:
- No answering emails at 2am
- No smoking cigarettes
- No ruminating about the past or future
Post these lists somewhere that you can view them on a daily basis.
Give Yourself Grace
Plan for bumps in the road. Normal life occurrences may cause you to veer off track (i.e., big project at work, sick child, injury). Give yourself some grace. Think of your journey as “progress, not perfection” and tomorrow is always a new day to get back on track.