Tips For A Better Work Life Balance
Author: Nikki Barnett Date Posted:18 March 2021
How To Achieve A Better Work Life Balance For Yourself And Staff
How to balance work and family life is a constant struggle for many of us. At some point, we all fall in to the trap of taking on too much or becoming overwhelmed by expectations or responsibilities. Working parents in particular know the stress and guilt of struggling to maintain perceived work performance and productivity at the expense of family time. While we all know the importance of a work life balance, taking time out is generally easier said than done.
There’s no true satisfaction in being a workaholic. If you’re finding long days at the office or glued to your computer working from home are creating stresses in other areas of your life, it might be time to step away from the office and find a better work-life balance. With this Saturday 20th March being International Day of Happiness, it's the perfect time to consider if your work-life balance needs a little adjustment.
What is the meaning of a work-life balance?
A good work-life balance means achieving a harmony between all aspects of your professional and personal life. This means more than just finding an acceptable balance between the number of hours you spend at work and at home. A true work and life balance also means finding harmony between the demands of work, personal responsibilities, and your own needs for fulfilment and a happier life.
Balancing financial health with physical health, along with your mental and emotional health, all means juggling work, exercise, healthy eating, relationships, and your own feelings of fulfilment. When it comes down to the basics, finding a better work-life balance is as simple as asking yourself two questions:
“What do I want more of in my life?”
“What do I want less of in my life?”
Guide To Improving Your Work-Life Balance For Yourself And Your Staff
1. Recognise your priorities
Very few people are lucky enough to only work for the love of it rather than for financial need, but it’s important to keep your priorities front and centre. Think about what is most important to you in life. Make a list of low, medium, and high life priorities. These might include family, your network of friends, hobbies, volunteer work, personal accomplishment, music or art, further education, fitness, and career progression.
2. Acknowledge your responsibilities
There will always be some responsibilities that are less flexible than others. These might include your minimal work hours to meet financial commitments, your carer’s responsibilities, time with your partner, and your kids’ school or after-school schedule.
3. Manage your time
Track your day to see where you are currently wasting time. Identify if poor prioritisation is causing you to spend too long on low priority tasks or things that just aren’t important to you. How much time do you actually spend on your life priorities? What time-draining commitments are you currently wasting hours on each week? What lifestyle changes could you make to free up time for your passions and priorities?
4. Set boundaries and make a time budget
If you can manage your money with a financial budget, you can manage your work-life balance with a time budget. Create a month-long calendar and schedule your time according to your responsibilities and your priorities. Following a time budget helps you to proactively set aside time to invest in the activities most important to you.
The most common time wasters in the workplace
In the struggle for a better work-life balance, it’s worth recognising the poor time-management habits that most commonly cause people to unconsciously waste time at work:
1. Focusing on small tasks that are easily completed rather than make progress on complex tasks.
2. Unnecessary meetings, long email chains, and “quick” project catchups.
3. Reactive, passive work with no measurement of progress, like replying to every email as it appears in your inbox.
4. Doing other people’s work, or being too available to colleagues or clients.
5. Procrastinating—either on social media or with unnecessary tasks—and lack of motivation.
6. Multitasking and trying to divide your attention between too many tasks.
7. Sticking to old routines out of habit or because the initial change feels too hard.
8. Working on low-value, repetitive tasks that are not priorities.
9. A distracting work environment either from excessive noise or unnecessary interruptions.
10. Decision fatigue from the mental drain of micromanaging too many small tasks.
Time management for a better work-life balance
Calendars, browser extensions, phone apps and the old-fashioned to-do lists are all useful tools and strategies for keeping track of how you spend your time. Consider your passions, goals, and interests. Make time for the things that make you feel alive and the people most important to you.
Put your time budget in to action and cut down on time ‘wastage’. Cancel non-essential meetings, avoid social media, shop online, delegate tasks, find ways to reduce the time you spend waiting, or time spent in the car.
If you find unproductive, time wasting behaviours at work are the biggest roadblock to achieving a better work-life balance, then set limits on dedicated work hours and set aside time each day for other activities. Learn how to say ‘no’ and proactively separate work and personal times. If necessary, switch off the phone, inform colleagues that you’re unavailable, and schedule your priority tasks to ensure you focus on what is most important.
Focus on your life priorities
Dedicate time and energy to the things that mean the most. If family time and personal relationships are at the top of your life priorities, find a way to nurture your relationships. Prioritise quality time and activities with your family and friends. Make the most of down time to recharge before the start of the work week. Dinner with friends, picnics with the kids, a quiet afternoon enjoying a bottle of wine with your partner...
Do things for yourself. Time for yourself is just as important as time spent with loved ones. Weekends away, time spent in nature, or curling up with a book are all good ways to wind down. Choose activities that require minimal effort or decision making, and make the most of your free time.
Finding a good work-life balance means you’ll not only be happier and more productive in all aspects of your work and personal activities, you’ll also have a sense of purpose that gives real meaning to your life.
Work life balance strategies for employers
For employers, supporting your staff in maintaining a healthy work-life balance helps reduce stress and prevent staff burnout. You can boost office morale by promoting an environment that encourages team work, flexible working arrangements, and work-free down time. Encouraging staff to “switch off” on their days off, to take annual leave, and enjoy their time away from work to recharge.
Emphasise the importance of finishing work on time at the end of the day, and model time management skills and strategies. Ensure staff take time on the weekends to rejuvenate rather than "catching up" on overdue work. They'll be more likely to return to work ready to perform after spending time with friends and family, and enjoying hobbies
Help staff to minimise distractions and time wasting behaviours. Adopt office-wide policies for staff to block out time each day or each week to manage administration tasks in order to prioritise more critical work. Plan a regular lunch and learn session each month or a single inter-departmental meeting to facilitate office-wide planning to minimise more frequent or unproductive meetings.
Flexibility is essential to maintaining a better work-life balance for your employees. There might be days (or even weeks) when either home or work takes precedence in order to meet important goals. For improving work life balance in Australia, a number of programs are available through MensLine Australia, Beyond Blue, and the Australian Government Health Direct. Take the first step and do something to improve your work life balance and that of your staff.
This weekend, or on Saturday 20th March for International Day of Happiness, plan something special with your friends or family. Unplug, and take the time to do something that brings you joy. Be spontaneous. Grab a bottle of wine and pack a picnic. Or just order a hamper of your favourite decadent treats and spoil the people you love.
“Life is short. Focus on what matters and let go of what doesn’t.”