Healthy work-life balance

Juggling work and home life or roles as fathers, husbands or bosses can sometimes be difficult to balance.

There may come a time when our workload increases, or when our boss asks us to stay back extra hours in order to complete certain tasks and projects.

But while we may need to exert extra effort at times to get a particular job done, it’s also important to recognise that consistently working overtime, or on our days off, can be unhealthy and damaging to our well-being.

Relationship Australia WA’s senior educator Sue Aspin said that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential, no matter how much we love (or hate) our jobs and careers.

An effective work-life balance can be thought of as a self-defined state of well-being that allows a person to effectively manage multiple responsibilities at home, at work and in the community.

Ms Aspin said there is no set equation for an ideal work-life balance – it depends on the individual and will change from person to person and perhaps at different stages of life.

“When we have a balanced work-life schedule we tend to feel more energetic, motivated and hopeful and to have a more general positive attitude,” she said.

“Having a balanced work-life schedule helps us to maintain our general health, good sleeping patterns and enjoyment of engaging socially with people. We are also less likely to turn to alcohol, coffee, tobacco or other addictive substances in an attempt to reduce the stress.”

But when the balance starts to tilt heavily in favour of work we may feel frustrated or burnt out, have a lack of energy and motivation, and develop a general negative attitude as well.

We may also withdraw from our friends and family, experience sleeplessness, have frequent episodes of ill-health and increase our use of substances like alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.

When we notice signs of imbalance Ms Aspin suggests the first thing we should do is take the time to identify our values and what we desire from work and life.

“Areas of focus could include work, self, home, partner, children, extended family, friends, community, study, recreation, and / or spiritual life,” she said.

If we then map out our schedules, it becomes clearer how we are spending our time and whether that matches the values we have identified. Does the balance tilt heavily into the ‘work’ category?

If so, consider what changes you can make to restore the balance to more how you would like it. There may be some things that can’t really be changed at the moment, but there are likely to be other adjustments that you can make.

“It’s important to make sure your work life doesn’t encroach too much on your family or personal time,” said Ms Aspin.

Relationships Australia WA runs a number of courses that can help individuals attain a healthy balance within their lives. To enquire about our diverse range of programs or book a course please call 6164 0290 or visit our course page here.

Tips for maintaining work-life balance

1. Develop rituals that separate work and home – for example, when you get home from work, change out of your work clothes or uniform and take a shower to wash off the day.

2. Take your designated breaks during the work day. Not only will this help you de-stress or relax, it can often make you more productive when it comes to completing your work. Getting up from your desk and moving regularly is also good for your physical health.

3. If you are asked by your boss to spend extra hours at work or to give up part of your weekend, consider whether this is a one-off intrusion into your private time, or whether it is part of a regular pattern. Has your boss shown flexibility in previous situations by allowing you time off for your private commitments? 

4. Take time to unwind and relax before or after work:

  • drop in to the gym 
  • go for a walk 
  • have a coffee 
  • listen to music or a favourite radio program 
  • read a novel 
  • potter in the garden 
5. It’s important to realistically review your work/life balance on a regular basis. As we grow older, start a family and pass through different stages of our life, the parameters of our ideal work/balance and priorities are likely to shift.
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