Have you got the right balance between your work and your home life? If you feel you don’t, you’re not alone.
According to the CIPD, the professional body for human resources and people development, only one in three (35%) workers say that work has a positive impact on their mental health. The study also found that one in five people said that they were always or often exhausted or under excessive pressure at work, while one in ten said they were often or always miserable.
Of course, 2020 has exacerbated many of these problems. With increasing numbers of people working from home, finding a clear boundary between your work and personal life can be a challenge when your spare room is also your office.
If you don’t manage the balance between work and your home life, it can lead to both physical and mental issues, and burnout. Thankfully, there are lots of simple ways that you can improve your work-life balance – read on for five great tips
1. Identify that there is a problem
Your work-life balance is simply how you divide your time and focus between your work, your family, and your free time. The first step to improving the balance is to identify that there is a problem.
Firstly, sit down and think about what you would like to spend more time on. This will help you work out what activities you’d like to be doing, and what aspects of your life you’d like to give more attention to.
Signs of an unhealthy work-life balance include:
- Not sleeping or experiencing poor sleep
- Feeling irritable and short-tempered
- Struggling to focus on anything (not just work)
- Not taking care of yourself
- Your personal relationships suffering
- Apathy or resentment towards your work
- Stress and anxiety.
If you recognise some of these from your day-to-day life, you need to think about how you spend your time. Understanding the work-life balance that is right for you is essential if you want to make progress.
2. Switch off when you get home
One simple way to improve your work-life balance is to create a clear boundary between home and work.
Regardless of what time you leave the office, once you get home it’s important to switch off, both physically and emotionally. If you’re working from home, make sure you pack away your office – unplug your laptop and put it in a drawer or cupboard to signal that you have finished your work for the day.
If you’re tempted to log on and check your work emails at home, don’t. Your time off should be for winding down, so spend time with your family, enjoy a hobby or activity, or just relax.
One good way of relaxing is to read a book. Research conducted in 2009 found that just half an hour of reading is as effective as yoga for reducing stress.
The important thing is that you find something that you enjoy, that relaxes you, and that has nothing to do with work.
3. Take regular breaks
Whether you work at home or at your business, it’s vital that you take regular breaks during the day. A recent report in the Harvard Business Review urged employers to ensure workers had regular breaks during the working day as our brain can only focus ‘for around 90 to 120 minutes before it needs to rest.’
Lack of breaks and rest can lead to stress and burnout - a problem that, according to the report, ‘costs the U.S. more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal, and insurance costs’.
If you work from home, consider incorporating a ‘commute’ into your day. Take a 15- or 30-minute work around the block before you start in the morning, and after you’ve finished in the evening. This calming walk creates a boundary between your work and personal life, and you also benefit from some light exercise.
In the longer term, it is also beneficial to take a proper holiday. UK law entitles those working a five-day week to 28 days holiday a year however, according to recent research from HR Management firm BrightHR, 77% of UK workers end their holiday year with unused annual leave.
Considering that 59% of employees say they have no option to carry over their leave until next year, not using your annual leave often means you will lose it for good.
Taking a proper holiday doesn’t just mean going on a round-the-world trip. Even if you stay at home and binge all those box sets you have been saving up, it’s just important that you leave your work laptop alone.
4. Look after your health
Burnout and work stresses can lead to both physical and mental health issues. A poor work-life balance can affect your health in a range of ways, harming your overall wellbeing.
In a study, two in three workers say they have experienced work-related health conditions in the last 12 months with anxiety and sleep problems the most common issues reported.
If you are aware that work is damaging your health, you should speak to your line manager or Human Resources team to explore whether your employer can make any changes.
However, there may also be steps that you can take outside your work, such as:
- Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, as this contributes to your overall wellbeing. We’ve previously looked at 12 foods that are great for heart health
- Make sure you get plenty of exercise
- Get a good night’s rest. Turn off your phone an hour before bedtime and create an inviting sleep environment.
Prioritising your health can also have a positive effect on your working life. If you’re well-rested, you eat a healthy diet, and you get the right amount of exercise, you’ll be more productive, focused, and creative.
5. Consider flexible working
2020 has thrown up many challenges for businesses, both economically and logistically in terms of how their employees can carry out their work. It has also highlighted how flexible places of work can be, particularly for those working in an office environment.
Research indicates that once the coronavirus crisis has passed, working from home will become more common. It’s expected the proportion of people working from home regularly will increase to 37%, compared to just 18% before lockdown.
For many people that have started working from home, an improved work-life balance has been one of the key benefits. For example, the absence of a long commute has enabled many workers to spend more time with their family and on activities they enjoy, while still being able to dedicated the necessary amount of time and effort to their work.
Flexible working options aren’t just limited to working from home. Flexible working hours, compressed hours, or part-time roles could help you create the work-life balance you want by freeing up time to spend on other aspects of your life. Three-quarters (78%) of flexible workers have said it’s had a positive impact on their quality of life.
Of course, flexible working is something that you have to discuss with your employer, and it may not be suitable for all workers and roles. However, attitudes have shifted in recent months and growing evidence suggests employers are increasingly open to discussing different working patterns.
Give yourself financial peace of mind
Getting the work-life balance right can be tricky. So, one of the ways that you can reduce stress and help yourself to sleep easy at night is to make sure you have the right protection in place for you and your family.
For just a few pounds a month, you can put life insurance in place which means your family would benefit from a lump sum if something were to happen to you. They could pay off the mortgage and stay in the family home, or they could replace your income and maintain their lifestyle.
And, if you are seriously ill and unable to work, Critical Illness cover gives you a tax-free lump sum, so you don’t have to worry about your finances at an already stressful time.
We can help you to get the right protection at the right price. Protection costs less than you might think, so compare life insurance quotes or get a Critical Illness cover quote today.
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