How To Achieve A Good Work-Life Balance

I know many, like myself, may have lost their jobs due to illness, and many find themselves in a position where they can’t work. But for those of you who can work, it can be exhausting managing the hours with chronic illness. Even if you don’t have chronic illness, it can still leave you frazzled juggling life alongside a job, with too many hours, too much stress, and not enough time for yourself. Today I’d like to share a guest post on ways to improve your work-life balance.


Maximising your work life balance — what should you do?

Recent statistics have revealed that one third of UK workers are unhappy with their work life balance. Not only does it affect our relationships and home life happiness, but it can also take its toll on our mental health. Read on as retailers of men’s dress shirts, Charles Tyrwhitt, investigate the best way to manage a good work-life balance and take some tips from other countries. 

What’s going on at the moment?

Are you one of those workers in the UK who feel as though they’re overworked? Maintaining a healthy balance between home and work life seems to become more difficult as we get older, with statistics showing that the younger the employee, the less likely they are to identify work-life balance as an important part of their job. The task of juggling a family alongside a job is also difficult for many to manage with statistics revealing that 75% of working parents suffer stress and anxiety as a result of their work-life balance management.

Working to your maximum capacity for a long period of time can have negative effects. Research found that as a person’s weekly hours increase, so do their feelings of unhappiness. Of course, this is no surprise. Even for those who don’t work long hours, there is still the issue of ‘switching off’ and disconnecting from what’s happened at the office. In fact, one third of European workers said that a bad day at work affected their personal life. 

More working hours means less time to pursue any hobbies and spend time with friends and family. But, many of us feel as though there’s nothing we can do about it. 

People management in other countries

One recent study revealed that Britain has the worst work-life balance. What can we learn from our foreign neighbours?

One of the main reasons other countries seem to have a better work-life balance is down to the amount of free time other European workers have. In Belgium, employees have an average of 8.6 hours of free time per day compared to their 7.4-hour work days, and Netherlands are enjoying the shortest working week at only 30.3 hours. Denmark only spend 6.6 hours at work each day with 8.8 hours each day to spend how they wish, and Austrians are encouraged to start the weekend early with 3pm finishes implemented around the country. Many Germans are able to relax on a Sunday too, as stores are regulated so that they close on Sundays. All of these extra hours add up it seems, with Britons working 325 hours more per year than workers in Germany. 

The times and frequency of break times is also an important consideration. The Spanish are famous for their midday siestas which began as an effort to sleep through the hottest period of the day in warmer climates. Although new laws mean that shops have to remain open without a break for naps, some workers still follow the siesta tradition. Or, they take long coffee and lunch breaks with colleagues — something that is widely accepted by employers. Finland also take on the approach that long breaks are good for everyone, and their workers enjoy extra-long lunch breaks that are one to two hours long! If you visited Sweden on business, you’d probably be invited to join them for ‘fika’ — this is a late morning coffee that offices pause to enjoy at around 11am. 

Is there anything else that we can take from other countries?

  • Belgians are able to take a full month off work to coincide with school breaks. 
  • Spanish workers have a holiday allowance of 30 days.
  • France introduced a law in 2017 that gave workers the ‘right to disconnect’ from after-work emails. 
  • Swedish workers enjoy 16 months of paid family leave 

Make small but effective changes in your working life

You might not be able to change your working hours, but there are some things you can start to change. 

Could it be possible to split up your break into smaller breaks throughout the day? Research has proven that taking regular breaks can improve your productivity, and it therefore could be something that they will support. Split your hour break up into half an hour and two 15-minute breaks to decrease the amount of time spent at your desk at one time. Get some fresh air or spend time talking to family on the phone, taking a small action like this could reduce your stress levels. 

Is your commute getting you down? A long and stressful journey to and from work can have a negative impact on your mental health. This is one reason to propose flexi-time at your office, where you can skip the traffic at each side of your day and do something more productive. Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone. You could make your commute feel more productive though, by listening to a podcast or audio book that can reduce the stress of rush-hour traffic. Alternatively, going to a gym class near to your work can mean that you miss the bulk of the busy traffic and allows you to fit some exercise into your day as well!

Train yourself to switch off when you’re not at work. Think of the long-term issues that mixing home and work life can have and aim to check your emails only for ten minutes on an evening instead of an hour. This is the same for working overtime, unless entirely necessary, make sure you are sticking to the number of hours that you’re contracted to. This can not only affect your mental health but can lead to employers expecting this behaviour at all times. 

When you book time off, make sure you’re using it wisely. We’re all guilty of using our holidays to run errands or do something that we’ve been putting off, but this isn’t always helpful for our work-life balance. Although we need to do this now and then, annual leave should be used to recuperate, relax and enjoy time away from the office so try to focus on this. 

Make small changes in your working and home life to improve your balance. From splitting up your break to making the most of your holidays, being conscious of finding a good split between the office and spare time is the first step to improving your work-life balance.

Sources

EmployeeBenefits / MentalHealth.org.uk / CNTraveller / CityAM

[ This is a collaborative guest post & as such the ideas expressed here are that of the author. ]

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49 Comments

  1. Benn Bell
    March 25, 2019 / 4:45 pm

    Good article. I’m retired now but when I was working keeping the right balance was always important to me..

    • March 26, 2019 / 11:02 pm

      I’m glad it was important to you to keep a balance. All too often we don’t realise it’s become so distorted until it’s too late and our personal lives suffer and we’re frazzled. Thanks for the comment, Benn – I hope this week is treating you well 🙂

  2. March 25, 2019 / 5:08 pm

    I’m retired now, but I worked very hard to work hard and then play hard. It worked for me. We have to take the time to smell the roses.

    Have a fabulous day and week, my friend. ♥

    • March 26, 2019 / 11:01 pm

      It’s whatever works for you, but you’re right about also needing to stop and smell the roses and take time to enjoy life. Thanks for the comment, Sandee – have a great rest of your week xx

  3. Julie de Rohan
    March 25, 2019 / 5:23 pm

    I think that one of the issues here in the UK is that overwork can be a badge of honour, and work addiction – rather than being a cause for concern – is often celebrated. It’s not good for us at all. As you quite rightly point out, getting the work life balance right is essential for our mental health. Although I love my work, it can be full-on and challenging – I’ve worked out I need to have regular breaks in order to look after myself and do the best that I can for my clients. I agree we can learn a lot from our European neighbours. Great post, Caz, on a really important topic, thank you.

    • March 26, 2019 / 11:00 pm

      Absolutely, Julie. In one workplace, overworking was seen as a necessity. If you weren’t exhausted, you weren’t working hard enough. Not taking breaks during the day and not taking your holidays was a badge of honour. If you did, it was almost as if it were frowned upon. It was a horrible environment and I was frazzled pretty quickly. Regular breaks are important so I’m glad you’re making sure to take those, and you’re right, it works better for you and your clients/work output. I’m really glad you liked the post, thanks for the great comment! x

  4. March 25, 2019 / 5:23 pm

    I have to say, I never worried about a work-life balance but I also did what I had to to balance it. Quit a job, change work hours–whatever, I just did it. I don’t know that it’s worked for my career but I’m pretty happy!

    • March 26, 2019 / 10:57 pm

      That you’re happy counts far more than what your CV looked like. It’s rare to have someone say they’ve done whatever necessary to ensure they get that healthy balance, so I think you did brilliantly making those big changes that were needed! Thanks for sharing, Jacqui x

  5. March 25, 2019 / 6:25 pm

    Don’t look at Americans for ideas on life work balance. We are notorious for our imblance

    • March 25, 2019 / 9:27 pm

      you can say that again, The Lonely Author! lol great post, Caz — surely your work blogging, etc is work. I find that working from home makes balancing more difficult in some ways

    • March 26, 2019 / 8:17 pm

      That’s an achievement in itself! It’s sad things are getting pretty out of hand with how lives are eaten up by constant work and constant stress.x

  6. March 25, 2019 / 6:39 pm

    Great article. I recently heard someone announce that their family reserves 430p-830p daily as exclusively “family time” – which sounds laudable, except that both parents have jobs that routinely encroach upon that time…do you say “NO” to a job need? Perhaps, but there needs to be an understanding of how to balance the needs of both, and adapt when needed…easier said than done!

    • March 26, 2019 / 6:55 pm

      That’s a tricky one with where to draw the line. Definitely easier said than done!
      Thanks for the great comment, John =]

  7. March 25, 2019 / 6:48 pm

    Getting the balance right isn’t always easy, and I know I learnt that the hard way! When I was teaching in Lyon, I found it quite difficult to call it a day and stop tinkering with lesson plans, replying to emails from students etc. Now that I have an office-based job, I’m much better at logging off on time, coming home and putting work out of my mind until the morning! Thanks for this post, Caz 🙂

    • March 26, 2019 / 6:44 pm

      It’s all a learning curve, isn’t it? I’m glad you’ve got better at balancing it now you have an office-based job. Shutting off from work when you get home can be hard but so important. Thanks for the comment, Rosie! 🙂
      xx

  8. March 25, 2019 / 6:53 pm

    I love the post and it’s so true. I’m very fortunate I don’t have to work. The stress not only made my body feel worst but it had a profound effect on my mental illness.
    On a lighter subject, I’m challenging you to show your thinking cap. I have another cap, I’ll show once you show yours! Have a great day. If your h​aving a rough day, don’t do the cap thing, it’s not worth it. 🙂

    • March 26, 2019 / 11:13 pm

      Stress and heavy workloads can be awful for health when you’re already poorly, not to mention the impact on mental health. Thank you for sharing your comment!
      Hmmm I’ll debate the thinking cap thing. I need to find a hat first! I have one somewhere, buried away with summer clothes that only see the light of day for a couple of weeks each year 🙂
      xx

  9. March 25, 2019 / 6:54 pm

    Your site is being picky on comments again. I had to come directly to your site and send thru form. FYI

    • March 26, 2019 / 11:12 pm

      Do you mean you can’t comment through the reader? That’s standard for blogs that have a paid-for template sadly, so you have to open up the blog itself to be able to comment.xx

  10. March 25, 2019 / 10:14 pm

    Great ideas here. I always had a hard time with the work life balance, but I think that I have it figured out now that I’m not working. Lol, what’s with that I wonder.

    • March 26, 2019 / 5:57 pm

      Ironic, and pretty typical! Better late than never 😉
      Thanks for the comment lovely, I hope this week treats you kindly xx

  11. March 25, 2019 / 10:48 pm

    Lots of really great information here! Thanks for this post!

    • March 26, 2019 / 5:47 pm

      Glad you liked it! Have a lovely rest of your week 🙂
      xx

  12. March 25, 2019 / 11:46 pm

    This makes very good points especially to move abroad lol. But really good advice on trying to design your own work life balance. I am about to enter the workforce again slowly with my chronic illness. Last time I freelanced 3-4 shifts a week and I was left bed bound the rest of the week. This time I’m planning to work remotely two days max. Thanks for the post!

    • March 26, 2019 / 5:47 pm

      Moving abroad certainly sounds appealing! I think easing yourself back into work is the best way, taking it bit by bit and knowing your limits. Working remotely is a good alternative to cut out travel and difficulties with being in somewhere like an office to better the situation to our own needs. Wishing you all the very best! xx

  13. March 25, 2019 / 11:51 pm

    It’s true and we need to have a work life balance else the time will just fly and you wouldn’t even know how it went away! I was fortunate to have a work from home for most part when my twins were little . But sometimes you spend more time at work and can’t shut off when you work from home.. Great post Caz.!

    • March 26, 2019 / 4:54 pm

      I find now that time goes and I don’t know where life is disappearing to, and that’s without my job and just blogging and various hospital appointments. I know that in most jobs I’ve had, it’s been hard to draw the line when coming home, either working extra or just not able to shut my brain off. Glad you liked the post, Nisha! xx

  14. March 26, 2019 / 12:09 am

    Lots of great information here! Thank you so much for this post!

    • March 26, 2019 / 4:36 pm

      I’m pleased I could share it with everyone & I’m glad you liked it, Richa xx

  15. March 26, 2019 / 12:24 am

    Great post! A balance is absolutely necessary! It’s so easy to burn out at work!

    • March 26, 2019 / 4:20 pm

      Very easy to burn out indeed! Thanks Aixa 🙂
      xx

  16. March 26, 2019 / 6:27 am

    A great article, Caz. Thank You for sharing it with us.
    It was certainly an eye opener regarding the different working hours amongst neighbouring countries. Here in Australia the ‘normal’ work week is 38 hours per week (a little tiring to be sure).
    I

    • March 26, 2019 / 4:10 pm

      I think it’s always fascinating learning how other countries typically do things, and work ‘norms’ can vary quite a lot. In the UK, 37-38 is quite common for a 9-5, but then many will put in extra hours, often unpaid, to stay on top of heavy workloads. Glad you liked the post, thanks for the comment! =]

  17. March 26, 2019 / 7:15 pm

    I think the USA might be just as bad. Denmark sounds reasonable. Sign me up!

    • March 26, 2019 / 11:15 pm

      Let’s both go to Denmark, I’m up for that! Actually no, I better check the weather first. I want somewhere warm that also respects a good work-life balance! Thanks for the comment, Alice =]
      xx

  18. March 26, 2019 / 7:25 pm

    I don’t work anymore, but keeping a balanced life still is important for my health. Thanks for reminding us!
    For me having breaks is key.

    • March 26, 2019 / 11:17 pm

      Good point, even without work it can be a challenge balancing expectations, to-do lists, all aspects of life… the balance is always important. Breaks are vital for me, too, especially these days. Keep taking breaks, prioritise yourself because you are important to look after. Thanks for the comment Viola  ♥

  19. March 26, 2019 / 8:11 pm

    yes, life balance is important. I agree with you.
    Great article

    • March 26, 2019 / 11:18 pm

      It’s hard to get it right, but I think it’s important to review how things are going and readjust things where necessary to get the healthiest balance possible. Thanks for the comment – have a lovely week 🙂

  20. March 27, 2019 / 12:02 pm

    Some good tips here. I think the point about checking email is especially good – we can’t really ever switch off if we are being expected to keep an eye on emails at all times. Flexitime also helps – I used to come in late and leave late, thus missing most of the rush hour. Getting rid of the long commute altogether was one of the best career decisions I made!

    • March 29, 2019 / 4:49 pm

      Definitely, that constant connection with technology & the Internet can stop us from turning our brains off. I think flexitime is brilliantly helpful and as you say, avoiding the long commute if you can is a total blessing! Thanks for sharing, Kirsty 🙂
      xx

  21. March 29, 2019 / 2:15 am

    I am so fortunate that I am able to work, but it’s a difficult balance. I miss a lot of work for doctor’s appointments, infusions, blood tests, and to take care of my mom. Somedays it feels like I’m trying so hard to manage my illness so that I can show up for work everyday, when showing up for work every day is what makes my illness difficult to manage. I wish there was an easy answer, but I truly am grateful that I am able to work. I know so many with chronic illnesses cannot, and that must be difficult.

    Great post!

    • March 29, 2019 / 4:52 pm

      You’re right, it’s like a catch-22 then. Looking after your health so you can work, but work meaning you have worsening symptoms to manage, so I guess then it’s seeing what other benefits there are to why you’re doing it all; sense of achievement, income, challenging yourself, social aspects etc. It’s great that you’re grateful you can work, but obviously it takes a lot out of you to do it and you should be very proud for balancing everything the way you do. Thanks so much for sharing, Linds  ♥

  22. March 31, 2019 / 9:32 pm

    Charlee: “I think we handle the work-life balance pretty well.”
    Chaplin: “Yes, we don’t do any work at all, balance on narrow catwalks, and spend most of our time sleeping.”
    Charlee: “Humans, take note!”

    • March 31, 2019 / 9:53 pm

      Damn, I think that’s where we humans have all been going wrong! Dilemma solved by two adorable kittykats who understand the important things in life far more than we ever could! Thanks for the giggles =]
      xx

  23. April 4, 2019 / 5:32 am

    I like the comparison to other countries. One to two hour lunches would be fabulous but leaving work an hour or two later might not be. Here in the USA if the hours are under a certain number, the employer doesn’t have to pay for your health benefits so some companies give you shorter hours to avoid that. I think the countries with shorter hours probably have national healthcare so that’s not a worry for the workers.

    • April 5, 2019 / 4:07 pm

      It’s awful the way companies try to sneak around the lines to avoid things like full holiday pay or health benefits. Thanks for the comment, Mary! xx

  24. April 8, 2019 / 4:35 pm

    If you learn to enjoy your job and the people you work with , work life balance doesn’t become much of an issue. However, if you hate your job; or more likely just work for the money; than work life balance becomes far more important to you.

    • April 10, 2019 / 4:21 pm

      That’s a very good point, a bit like the expression of how ‘if you love what you do, it’s not work’. Thanks for sharing that, it’s worth considering too when reviewing your work situation and/or looking for a new role.x

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