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