It’s no secret that work can be stressful. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, job stress is one of the leading causes of health problems in the United States. But what if there were ways to reduce that stress and improve your work-life balance?
The reality is most situations can be improved with a bit of effort and creativity. And if you really feel like you are stuck, then it’s time to move on and find something new.
There’s no job that’s worth risking your health, and while it may be present some challenges to make a big move, it’s worth it in the end.
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is the term used to describe the balance between the time you spend working and the time you spend on other activities, such as family, friends, and leisure pursuits.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how to achieve work-life balance. Every person’s situation is different, and what works for one person might not work for another.
You need to decide the level of balance that’s right for you. What’s most important to you? What are your priorities? Once you know what you want, you can start making changes to achieve a better work-life balance.
Related: Going Back to School at 40
Ways to Improve Work-life Balance
Make a plan
One of the best ways to improve your work-life balance is to sit down and make a plan. Start by looking at your work schedule and identifying the times when you’re the most productive. Then, try to block out time for other activities during those periods.
For example, if you know you’re most productive in the morning, you might want to save your personal errands for the afternoon or evening. Or, if you’re a night owl, you might want to do your work in the morning and save your leisure activities for the evening.
When it comes to work-life balance, it’s important to set boundaries. This means saying no to requests from your boss or co-workers when you’re already stretched too thin. It might also mean setting limits on how much work you’re willing to take home with you.
The unfortunate reality is that many employers will take whatever you’re willing to give. They’ll ask if you’re willing to work another shift, and often people feel pressured to say yes.
But it’s your right to say no and set boundaries. And if your employer doesn’t respect those boundaries, it might be time to find a new job.
If you’re finding it difficult to balance your work and personal life, try taking more breaks during the day. Step away from your desk for a few minutes to take a walk, call a friend, or just relax for a few minutes. Breaks can help you recharge and be more productive when you return to work.
One way to reduce stress is to delegate tasks. If you have a lot of work to do, ask your family and friends for help. They might not be able to do everything, but every little bit helps.
Also, delegate as much as you can at work. Some people are masters of those, and others end up taking on the brunt of the workload. Don’t overdo the delegations, but take serious stock of your workload, and find tasks that might be more appropriate for someone else to do.
In fact, as long as you’re judicious about it, your superiors will often see this as a good managerial skill.
Take care of yourself
It’s important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and taking time for yourself. Make sure you schedule some time each week to do something you enjoy, whether it’s reading, going for a walk, or watching your favorite TV show.
People take for granted how important their mental and physical health is. If you’re not feeling well, it’s going to be difficult to balance your work and personal life.
Find a supportive community
If you’re struggling to find a good work-life balance, reach out to friends, family, or a support group. There are many groups available online and in-person that can offer advice and support.
It can be helpful to talk to others who are in similar situations. They might have some helpful tips or just be a good sounding board.
Manage your stress
In a world where employers continue to ask for more productivity, stress levels are on the rise. It’s critical you effectively manage stress to optimize your work-life balance.
One of the best ways to manage stress is by getting physical exercise. This has the added benefit of improving your fitness as well. You should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
Also, consider relaxation techniques. This might include deep breathing, yoga, or meditation.
And while that might not always be possible with busy work schedules, if you start slow, and commit to making it happen, you’ll be better off for it.
Use technology to your advantage
Technology can be a big help when it comes to work-life balance. There are a number of apps and tools that can make life easier, such as calendars and to-do lists. You can also use social media to stay connected with friends and family.
You can also use technology as a means of convincing your boss you can work remotely. With all the tools out there today, there’s really no excuse not to at least try it.
When it comes to work-life balance, goal setting is key. You want to set goals for both your work and personal life. This will help you stay focused and motivated.
Whether that’s to spend a certain amount of time with your family each week or to finish a project by a certain date, setting goals will help you stay on track.
This one goes hand in hand with goal setting. If you’re organized, you’ll be able to better manage your time and stay on track.
Work-life balance is different for everyone. What works for one person might not work for another. The important thing is to find what works for you and make a plan to achieve it. With a little effort, you can improve your work-life balance and lead a happier, healthier life.
Find work that you love
You’ve heard it said before if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. And it might be cliche, but there’s a lot of truth to it. Every job will have its days, but if you love what you do, it feels a lot better waking up every morning.
Do some serious soul searching and brainstorm a list of things you’re passionate about. What are you good at? What makes you happy? Once you have a list, start looking for jobs that match up. If you’re not sure where to start, try searching online or talking to a career counselor.
You might not find your dream job right away, but if you keep looking and stay passionate, you’ll eventually find something that’s a good fit for you.
Use your vacation time
According to a study by the U.S. Travel Association, 768 million vacation days went unused in 2018. Americans feel an overwhelming pressure to work, even when their employers are giving them time off.
People often feel guilty for taking a vacation, but it’s important to remember that your employer gave you the time off for a reason. Use it! Vacation is a chance to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate. It can also be a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends.
Become your own boss
If you can start a successful business, this might be your best way to the perfect work-life balance. But it’s not higher up on the list, because starting a business can also lead to high levels of stress.
It depends on how you approach the business, and frankly, how much money you want to make. But if you’re looking to get out of the daily grind, a “lifestyle business” in which you are more focused on quality of life than making money, might just be the perfect solution.
For example, let’s say you love to travel. You could start a travel blog or a travel planning business. Or let’s say you’re a great cook. You could start a catering business or a food blog.
You can also consider a franchise that offers flexibility or the ability to work from home. The possibilities are endless.
The world has changed dramatically since Covid-19 hit, and remote work has become a reality for many. That has improved the work-life balance of many as a result.
But if you are not one of those who’s been able to transition and view it as a way to improve your work life, then start looking. There are many companies that are now open to the idea of remote work, and the list is only going to grow.
Create time for you and your family
If there’s one thing that I’ve realized over the years, is spending time with family just makes you feel better.
It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Whether you’re cooking dinner together, playing a game, or just talking, quality time is important.
You also want to make sure you have some “me” time. This can be something as simple as reading a book, going for a walk, or taking a yoga class. You need time to relax and rejuvenate, so you can be your best self for your family.
Ask for a flexible work schedule
If you can’t work remotely all of the time, ask for a flexible work schedule. This can mean working from home one day a week, coming in late or leaving early once a week, or taking a longer lunch break.
The important thing is to find what works for you and your employer and to be vocal about it. You might be surprised how many employers are willing to work with you on this.
Talk to someone
If you’ve thought through all these ideas and still are struggling, consider talking with a career counselor. Often, they can help you identify your passions and find a job that’s the right fit for you.
They can also help you with other aspects of your career, such as salary negotiation, networking, and more.
Benefits of Having a Good Work-Life Balance
When you have a good work-life balance, you’re able to take time for yourself and your loved ones. This can lead to improved mental and physical health, reduced stress levels, and more happiness. You’re also able to be more productive when you’re at work and have a better work performance.
Having a good work-life balance can also lead to improved creativity, better decision-making, and more job satisfaction. You’ll feel like you have a better handle on your life and feel a sense of accomplishment. All of these benefits can lead to a happier, healthier life.
Having a good work-life balance has many benefits, including:
- Improved mental and physical health – When you’re able to take time for yourself, it can lead to improved mental and physical health. This is because you’re able to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate.
- Reduced stress levels – Good work-life balance leads to lower stress. This is because you’re not always worried about how you’re going to fit everything in. You have time for both work and your personal life.
- More happiness – When you’re happier, you’re healthier and better managing your mix of work and play is critical to happiness.
- Improved work performance – By balancing the time you spend at work, you will be happier when you are working. Happier employees are more productive employees. If your employer doesn’t get it, then think about a new job.
- Improved creativity – When you have time to relax, your mind is able to wander and be more creative. This can lead to new ideas and solutions at work.
- Better decision making – Having a better work-life balance allows your mind to operate with more clarity. Because you’re able to think more clearly and weigh all the options, you likely make better decisions
- More job satisfaction – When you have a good work-life balance, you’re more likely to be satisfied with your job. This is because you’re able to enjoy both your work and your personal life.
Work-life balance in a more flexible world
The good news for everyone looking to improve their work-life balance is the world is shifting in your favor. With the growth of technology, more people are able to work remotely. And with the rise of the gig economy, there are more options for flexible work schedules.
So don’t be afraid to ask your employer for what you need to achieve a good work-life balance. They might be more willing to work with you than you think.
Companies are going to be feeling the pressure to allow more flexibility for employees. It’s a simple fact of competing for talent in today’s world when younger people demand this lifestyle.
How managers can help improve work-life balance
Managers, especially those engrained in the old school ways of management would be well-served to consider how they can improve their employee’s work-life balance.
It’s not just a matter of being a nice company to work for anymore, it’s critical to compete for talent.
Managers can help improve work-life balance in a number of different ways:
- Allowing flexible work hours
- Encouraging employees to take vacation days
- Giving employees the ability to work from home occasionally
- Implementing policies that allow for more personal time
- Creating a culture of respect and appreciation
- Fostering an environment where work-life balance is valued
- Leading by example
What to look for in an employer
If you are in the market for a new job, then make work-life balance a key factor in your new employer. You may not have all the power in the negotiation, but you can certainly influence it.
And if you’re already employed, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to achieve a good work-life balance. It’s in the best interest of your employer to keep you happy and productive.
Some things to look for in an employer that values work-life balance:
- Policies that allow for flexible hours and working from home
- A clear culture committed to the wellness of their employees
- Generous vacation policies
- Tuition reimbursement
- On-site daycare
Work-life balance is important for your happiness and health. But it’s not always easy to achieve. By making a plan, setting boundaries, taking breaks, and taking care of yourself, you can improve your work-life balance. And with a little effort, you can find fulfillment in both your personal and professional lives.
When it comes to work-life balance, there are no easy answers. It takes time, effort, and a lot of self-awareness to create a life that works for you. But if you’re struggling to find a balance, these tips can help you get started.