Work/Life balance has become a popular concept over the last few years. The difficulty has been differentiating between ideology and practicality. Everyone would like such a balance, but getting it into action, and getting it to work with some sustainability is not that easy. It’s not one-size fits all either. It is varied compilations of responsibility, work ethics, health, lifestyle, and that sometimes elusive element called job satisfaction. It’s a balance that ticks differently according to individual circumstances and capacity.

Making your changes

The greatest difficulty presented by work/life balance is that it requires work and discipline.

To get there, to find your balance, you’re going to need to take some hard-nosed action – mostly regarding yourself.

Review possibilities: We all structure our lives to suit ourselves – whether it’s setting our alarm clocks or planning weekend activities. Along the way we try to separate our work life from our private life, but often work is the shadow in the background. A way to alleviate this is to restructure the way you approach your working life. This really means changing habits. Get to work earlier, learn to deal with priorities first, take a break when you can, practice mind exercises to improve your concentration, learn to delegate, don’t cook dinner every night. Make better use of your time at work, and around work, and the stress will improve.

One step at a time: The common mistake is to try and do everything at once. Begin with one goal. Go to bed earlier, wake earlier. Then once you have developed that as a routine, bring in the next goal: get exercising. And if diet is your next step, don’t begin until the first steps are working for you. Then make a resolution not to work overtime every night – and slowly reduce this aspect of your job until you are always able to go home at a reasonable time. Sound difficult? Perhaps it is – but this is how you revalue your time at work and resolve each day to get more done. Start small, and build step upon step.

Bring back the exercise regime: This is the hard one. So easy to find an excuse to miss this vital step. We all know that one of the best ways to reduce stress is physical activity. Take that evening walk, get out in the sun, go to the gym for 30 minutes. Do it. Your mood will lift, your body will feel great, and you will have more energy. Sport can make a welcome return to your life, likewise yoga, deep breathing exercises, or even meditation which ably attends to calming and strengthening the mind.

Perfect timing: There’s a large gap between accepting what is adequate and searching for the ultimate. The desire to be perfect can create immense stress not only in yourself, but in the people around you. Accept that life is complicated and the exactness of time and results cannot always be guaranteed; family can get in your way, colleagues have their own ideas, and sometimes time factors can mess up your plans. Ease up on yourself and find that keen point between ‘really good’ and ‘perfect death’ called excellent. Strive for that. Perfection ain’t ever coming.

Cut out the people who don’t add value: Spend time with people who inspire you, who add value to your life. Look for the positive people, and those who support you – cut out those who are bitter and negative and always at odds with the world. That includes family. There is nothing more unbalancing in your life than spending precious time with those who would prefer to see you fail than succeed, or who never contribute constructive discussion. And this includes social media where for some reason failure seems more valued than success. See it for what it is – a time waster with other time-wasting people.

Step away from endless technology: Turn off your phone. This is the single most important thing you can do to create a more normal balance in your life. Set specific times to answer messages, but make that blinking and pinging go away for at least 2 hours every evening or during the day. You will never be at peace while you are a slave to your phone. Constant accessibility is not a balanced life. Leave everything behind when you leave the office, and only reconnect in the morning. You will have a better relationship with family and friends, and with yourself, if you make yourself resilient to persistent calls and messages. Real work/life balance requires this more than any other action you may decide to take.

Employers and employees and places of work

There’s no arguing that a great deal of stress can be caused at your workplace by management and not necessarily by your own attitude to work. We are often expected to work longer hours, achieve more, and succeed through harder and harder work. While you need to learn to juggle workplace stress with daily pressures of family, health, debt, etc, it is not unreasonable to expect some changes in the workplace itself.

You will generally feel more motivated when working in an environment that overtly takes care of the workers. It allows you to leave home issues at home and be more productive at work. Companies who encourage a work/life balance approach will soon be noted for it, becoming employers of choice and attracting the best candidates to work for them. Retention will be much higher – and when employees feel happier in their work and less stressed, work standards tend to rise sharply. A healthy work/life balance will certainly improve team effort.

There is no need for a work/life balance philosophy to compromise productivity or efficiency. There are several options for companies to consider:

  • providing a gym at work
  • providing child care services in a family friendly environment
  • organising team events such as fun runs
  • optioning flexible hours or opportunities to work remotely
  • providing training and greater education within the workplace
  • offering community or charitable social assistance programmes in which staff can participate
  • creating quiet spaces for relaxation and mental refreshment
  • having regular scheduled meetings about issues that may be causing stress in the workplace and where matters of work/life balance can be discussed.

Become a more rounded individual by applying work/life balance principles

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, they say. Make sure you have other things in your life such as sport and hobbies or keen interests. Keep your family and friends in mind. Don’t over-reach your work time to exclude the good things in life – and expect benefits and fairness from your company. Don’t take work home, get some sleep, go on holiday. You only get one life – live it, work it – learn to enjoy it – and work/life balance may be your prize!