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    Work–life balance? I’ve forgotten what that is

    October 20, 2015 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    The average working Australian spends 50 hours a week at work – excluding the time we spend on our phones and laptops after hours.

    We’ve all heard about work-life balance, and we all think it’s a good idea. But very few of us report having struck the perfect balance between the time and attention we pay to work and to other aspects of our lives.

    Technology and the ‘always on’ world we live in make separating work and the rest of our lives increasingly difficult. We want to be connected, but perhaps not so much when we’re out to dinner, it’s 9 pm and those messages are from the project manager. But this is the reality for globalised enterprise.

    So what can we do to achieve better work-life balance?

    First, policies for mobile phones and other devices need to be clear and understood by all.  Employers and employees share a real concern that too much work will eventually be negative for even the most dedicated workaholic. The workplace needs a strategy for dealing with the intrusion of work into personal time via electronic devices. Agreeing times when employees are available and when they are not is an important first step.

    Other useful ways to keep the balance are:

    Take proper lunch breaks, at least a few days a week. Get out of the office and take a walk, go for a run or organise a team game with colleagues. The benefits of both exercise and sunshine on our mental health are well known.

    Set times away from work when you do not think or talk about it. If you find your mind drifting towards last week’s meeting or the latest targets, gently take your thoughts elsewhere. Engage in an activity that demands your full attention so that you don’t have the mind space for thoughts of work. Engaging a different aspect of your brain is an excellent de-stressor.

    Take holidays. Get away if you can, and if not, spend time at home with friends and family who have no connection to work. A week away can make an enormous difference to your energy levels and help you reconnect with what matters to you.

    Eat well and exercise. It seems obvious, but most of us don’t do enough of it. Regular meals, enough fruit and vegetables and less coffee, alcohol and fatty, sugary mid-afternoon pick-me-ups make us more resistant to stress.

    Do nothing. As well as working long hours, you may be trying to cram too much into your free time. Remember what it feels like to lie on the grass and look at the clouds, or to go for a walk to nowhere in particular.

    Say no. When you are already too busy, the urge to take on more seems irresistible. Recognise when you are becoming stressed, and skip the next thing. Identify people who can help you get things done, and ask them to help out.

    Negotiate time off to reward performance. When a team has put in many extra hours or has achieved a significant goal, an afternoon off tells employees their time is valued and their efforts are worthwhile.

    Try these strategies and see if you feel more balanced. Then let us know.


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