More than half of British workers are unhappy in their jobs, with over a fifth saying that poor work-life balance is to blame. Many of us routinely work longer hours than we’d like to, don’t take our full lunch breaks, and feel stressed while we’re doing our jobs to boot. Not only is this a problem for employees on a personal level, but it’s also a problem for the organisations employing them.
Mental ill-health (including stress, depression and anxiety) is responsible for 91 million lost working days a year according to ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), a problem that’s costing the UK approximately £15 billion a year in lost productivity.
So what’s the answer? Well, individual organisations have a responsibility to improve the experience employees have while working for them – some of which will depend on a better work-life balance, the implementation of truly flexible working hours, and better opportunities within the workplace too. But in the meantime, workers can do their bit to improve the work-life balance for themselves…
- Start each day with a to-do list
When you have a mountain of tasks piling up ahead of you, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important. In the end, you work through them from top to bottom and ultimately find yourself skipping a lunch break, not drinking enough water and leaving with a fuzzy head at home time. But taking just five minutes at the start of your day to ‘get your bearings’ could really help you to balance your time better. Divide your to-do list into sections: what must you complete today? What would you like to complete today? And what can be left until tomorrow if you don’t get around to it? These three sections will help you to focus on the essential tasks before moving onto the next most important ones, before ending the day with those that aren’t terribly time-sensitive.
- Invest in the right technology
While there’s not a single piece of technology in the world that can do your job for you, it can help to have tools that make your work processes more efficient. For example, if you’re a HR professional, it’s worth making a business case for investing in a good quality HR system that helps you to manage your workload in a way that’s methodical and effective. If you’re a project manager, you should be using project management software that allows you to communicate with your team and track the status of certain tasks, and so on.
- Monitor your output
Another great way to maintain a healthy work-life balance is to keep an eye on the tasks you’re performing in any day, and crucially, how much time they’re taking. This will enable you to see where you need to focus on making a change. Perhaps you need to outsource certain tasks or bring in an extra pair of hands so that you get to leave the office on time?
- Set boundaries
Try hard not to allow yourself to feel peer-pressured into routinely staying late in the office or working through your lunch break. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s a healthy way to spend your week. Instead, consider it a success if you leave work at 5.30 on the dot, and stay away from those work emails after hours too… there’s no need to be refreshing your inbox from your mobile when you could be relaxing or spending time with your family.
- Find ways to unwind
But what about when you’ve made it out of the office? Many of us find it hard to leave work at the front door, worrying about how we’re going to a handle a client meeting later in the week or wondering if we worded that email a bit too strongly. If this sounds like you, the best thing you can do is find healthy ways to unwind, parking your work-related anxieties to one side. For some people this might mean going to the gym or enjoying a long run. For others, it can be as simple as cooking from scratch and finding a good documentary on the television. Whatever it is (and however you fit into your other home-related responsibilities), find something that’s just for you.
What do you think of these tips for improving your work-life balance? Do you have any to add, or anything to warn against? Let us know.