A good work-life balance is often talked about, but something that most people find difficult to achieve. Two-thirds of UK workers are not happy with their work-life balance and those working full-time, work longer hours per week than our European counterparts.
A better work-life balance can make you happier, less stressed and support your overall mental health. It also gives you time to improve your physical health, through exercising and healthy eating, both things that are difficult to achieve when working long hours.
Even if you love your job (and we hope that you do) you can still be successful in your career without sacrificing time with your family or giving up hobbies. In fact, it is reported that people with a good work-life balance make better employees, as they are happier, more motivated and less likely to take time off work, for health related matters.
So, what can be done to achieve a healthy work-life balance that puts you in control of your time?
Here are our 5 tips to achieve a healthy balance between home and work:
1. Prioritise work tasks
Plan, so you know what your urgent work tasks are for the day and how long they will take. This will then help you to schedule other work that does not need to be done that day, helping you to keep on top of your workload. If you have too many urgent tasks, you need to take control, talk to your manager to discuss a solution, such as delegation or extended deadlines, if you don’t learn to say ‘no’ the work will continue to pile up.
2. Structure your time
With a plan in place for work tasks, you can think about how you schedule your time overall. This is important, you will never achieve a good balance if you only ‘plan’ to do things when you have the time – you need to make the time!
Scheduling your start and finish times will help to split time between your work priorities, time with family and your hobbies or activities. You may decide that you will leave work on time 2/3 times a week to go to a movie, visit the gym or just spend some time at home, or you may decide to start a bit later, to do the school drop off once a week. Set small, realistic goals, trying to leave early every night may be impossible, but, if you pledge to do it once a week and have an activity planned you are more likely to achieve it.
Another important factor is to leave work at work – it can be tempting (especially if you have left earlier than you usually would) to scroll through emails in the evening, but this can soon lead to worry and stress, taking on additional tasks outside of work and generally not switching off.
3. Take a break during the work day
Use your breaks at work to get some personal tasks done, so that these do not have to be done after work. This can really improve your productivity and leave you more free time after the working day. Picking up a few groceries, posting letters or filling in forms or catching up with personal emails can help you get ahead and make the most of your time. You could even use your lunch hour to catch up with a hobby such as walking or reading a good book.
4. Make the most of your personal time
From annual leave to weekends, scheduling things that you would like to do, will mean that you don’t fritter the time away and go back to work wishing you had got more from your free time.
Weekends and holidays are a perfect time to recharge and catch up with family and friends. If going on a holiday or break is not possible, there are plenty of things that you can plan to make the most of this time, from days out at the park, taking up a new hobby or lunch with friends, having things to look forward will give you a real boost.
It’s important to plan your holidays, over 40% of the UK workforce do not take their full annual leave entitlement, and waiting for the ‘best’ time, may mean that it will never happen. For those that do take their full holiday entitlement, over 15% admitted to working while on leave.
Try not to let work interfere with your personal time, especially when taking a longer break, put your out of office on and let people know that you won’t be available.
5. Use technology to work smarter
Could you use technology to help you to work smarter? If you have a long commute, working at home occasionally will give you the time at each end of the day to do the school run, go to the gym or polish up your cookery skills by cooking a meal from scratch.
If working from home is not an option, why not use your commute to take up a new hobby such as listening to an audio book to learn a new language or download a podcast. If you are using public transport catch up with a favorite TV programme or read a good book. Avoiding taking work to finish on your commute (unless you can do this as part of a flexible working arrangement, enabling you to leave the office early)
We hope that these tips have been useful and set you on your way to achieving a good work-life balance, but remember, it can be difficult to get right, requires discipline and success is personal to you. Even a few small tweaks can help you to improve the balance and enable you to get more from your work and personal life.