Juggling going to work/school, giving your all to relationships and taking care of other responsibilities takes up a lot of our energy. Let alone doing anything else such as socialising, self-care, hobbies or going on holiday. But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt ourselves and from working with our clients, it’s that no matter what, it is very important to not let work totally consume your life – whether you love or loathe your job.
Finding the right work life balance for you keeps you in the best physical and mental wellbeing state possible. It’s not healthy for anybody to have a routine of just going to work (even if you’re being presented with more opportunities, promotions and money) and then to bed without making the time for something else that truly fulfils you.
Businesses should have a duty of care to their employees but unfortunately this is not always the case.
It is understandable that businesses must make profit, fulfil their roles and meet deadlines/targets but some are ruthless and do this at the detriment of their employees.
Working long hours, having to go back before you’re feeling completely better, being short-staffed or lacking vital training can and does cause physical and mental health problems. And often in these circumstances, the support just isn’t there. No surprise this has a knock-on effect at home.
For one individual, this meant depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, SAD, exhaustion, physical injuries, lost concentration, no motivation, irritability, anger, stress, insomnia and so much more. Resulting in attempted suicide, repeated self-harm, broken-down relationships, not producing her best work and the threat of losing her job. Not having a work life balance equals very real consequences.
If there’s one thing we can pass on to you, it’s that there is a lot you can do to help yourself and to create the work life balance you want.
You don’t have to stay stuck. You don’t have to go through all the things we described above and more. You don’t have to rely on anybody else to make the difference you want and need.
- Resource yourself. Find out about the policies/procedures (covering wellbeing, work related stress and mental health) in place to support staff, promote wellbeing and mental health. It is always a good idea to have a copy of these yourself. If you don’t have them, you should feel no shame or embarrassment in asking for a copy. These give you some guidance as to how to approach the subjects around health and some idea of the support you should be receiving. Paperwork isn’t the most exciting thing to read through but is key to getting changes implemented for yourself and others. It also helps you to understand where you stand if you need to take time off for mental or physical health.
- It is important to ask yourself if working full time is what you really want and is necessary. One of the first things you can do is to ask to reduce from five to four days a week. If this is something that’s feasible for you, choosing to take a day off mid-week rather than at the start or end can be really helpful. While a long weekend sounds ideal, if your job is particularly demanding, that extra day in the middle can make a huge difference to how refreshed you feel and ready to wrap up the week. Reducing your working week doesn’t have to mean your work is crammed into fewer days – instead it encourages you to say ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t really need you to do it.
- Looking after your own health and well-being is also important. You can help yourself at work by speaking out when work demands are too much, using your time effectively (like not attending unnecessary meetings or adding tasks to your plate that can be done by somebody else) and by taking proper breaks which you are entitled to. If possible, go outside for a walk and get some fresh air during your lunch break. All too often we don’t do anything, instead we take the added emotions home with us and let them out when we get there or hold onto them, letting them build within us because we hadn’t done the little things that would make a difference.
- Whilst at home, try to switch off from work completely. Prioritise what needs to be done and what isn’t a ‘must’. Listen to your body as to what you want/need to eat so that you’re nourished and able to eat your meals mindfully. Develop a regular sleep pattern so you can distinguish between the normal feeling of being tired and exhaustion/pushing yourself too much. Exercise (whatever you enjoy doing – this is not a chore!), rest and relax, plan time with family/friends/partner and allow yourself time for hobbies/activities you love. Switch off notifications, don’t reply to emails or answer the phone out of working hours. Work out what matters to you – even draw out what the work life balance looks like for you (because you can make it happen if you know what you want from it).
Remember, you don’t have to always be doing something – the more important thing is to hold space for the things that give you purpose, enjoyment and fulfilment. That’s what a work life balance truly is.