Have you found the right balance between your work and your home life? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. The 2019 UK Working Lives survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that work-life balance is an area in which UK workers ‘fare particularly badly’.
Based on a measure of how often job demands interfere with family life, the UK is ranked 24th out of 25 comparative economies. The CIPD also found that three in five employees work longer hours than they would like to.
Here are five ways you could improve your work-life balance.
1. Don’t check emails at home
One simple way that you can improve your work-life balance is to stop checking your work emails while you are at home. This has two main benefits.
Firstly, it can help you to switch off and become more relaxed. Caroline Hunt, HR director of Deloitte, says: “Turn your phone off in the evenings and do something outside of the office, whether it’s a sport or hobby, to switch your mind off work.”
The second reason is that if you set boundaries on your time, your colleagues won’t expect you to respond to messages outside work hours.
“There’s also a point about conditioning other people,” says psychologist and author Dr Gary Wood. “If others know you’ll check an email at 11pm, they’ll send them. By answering emails out of hours, you are reinforcing the practice.”
2. Prioritise your health
Working too hard can damage your physical and mental health. Long hours could also prevent you from making a recovery, leading to more problems in the future.
Looking after your own health should be a priority. That means not going into the office if you’re genuinely unwell and taking enough time off to recharge your batteries.
Heather Monahan, founder of the career mentoring group, #BossInHeels, says: “Prioritising your health first and foremost will make you a better employee and person. You will miss less work, and when you are there, you will be happier and more productive.”
Looking after yourself doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to a rigid diet or exercise programme. It could simply mean you do some regular exercise or take a few minutes out of your schedule each day for meditation.
3. Take your holiday
According to a survey of 250,000 SMEs who use BrightHR services, 77% of workers have unused holiday at the end of the year. Considering that 59% of workers have no option to carry annual leave forward into the next year, it means that millions of British workers simply aren’t using their holiday allowance.
“It’s important for people to take time off. All the research shows that proper rest periods improve wellness, reduce stress and increase productivity,” says Shelagh Goodwin, General Manager of Human Resources at Media24.
Many business owners or senior execs feel that they cannot leave the business for an extended period. If this is you, you may have to find a solution that works for you.
Clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde says: “If it feels too difficult to shut down from work completely, especially if you run your own business and feel uncomfortable being away for too long you could compromise. Be available for phone or mail contact once (or twice) daily, at a set time, and not for too long (30-60 minutes).”
4. Find time for yourself and your family
Your job might be hugely important to you. However, it shouldn’t take over your life. Few people lie on their death bed and wished that they had worked harder!
Before you took your current job or set up your business you were an individual with friends, family and hobbies that made you happy. This doesn’t need to stop just because your work gets in the way.
It may sound strange, but you sometimes need to plan your home life as carefully as you schedule your working day. Create a calendar for spending time with your loved ones, and this will ensure that you enjoy your time with them without interruptions or excuses.
Chris Chancey, career expert and CEO of Amplio Recruiting, says: “If you do not firmly plan for personal time, you will never have time to do other things outside of work. No matter how hectic your schedule might be, you ultimately have control of your time and life.”
5. Plan tomorrow today
If you’re busy at work, leaving tasks behind at the end of the day can be stressful. Jobs you didn’t get finished can often weigh heavily on you when you get home from work, and this can make you stressed and anxious.
To help with this, write a to-do list as you’re leaving the office for the day. By planning your work list for tomorrow before you leave, you can relax in the knowledge that you can complete any unfinished tasks tomorrow.
Do the same at the end of the week, and you’ll be able to enjoy your weekend without thinking about what you need to do when you get back on Monday.