Have you achieved a healthy work-life balance?
The balance between your work and your personal life? About 58% of Canadians report feeling overloaded with their numerous roles, reports the Canadian Mental Health Association. This is not surprising as people occupy various roles with their work, family, friends, and community.
Statistics Canada indicates that Canadians spent 45 fewer minutes each workday with their families in 2005 than they did in 1985. This is equivalent to five extra weeks of work each year!
Establishing a healthy balance between work and our personal life is essential for each of us. Individuals struggling with work and life balance, in particular over a prolonged period of time, tend to feel more stressed, exhausted and burnt out. They subsequently tend to be less productive, more likely to suffer from mental and physical health problems, and more absent from work. Feeling stressed over a prolonged period of time also tends to contribute to increased short-term and long-term disability and health care costs.
Individuals who are able to achieve a healthy balance between work and personal life feel happier, are healthier, have healthier relationships, feel more fulfilled with their lives, are more productive, feel more enthusiastic about their work and contribute more successfully to the organization’s productivity and success. Thus, achieving a healthy work-life balance benefits everyone: the employees, employers, our community, and our society.
The 2009 Health Canada report, Work-Life Conflict in Canada in the New Millennium, offered key findings and recommendations from the 2001 National Work-Life Conflict Study. It found that employees working in an organization that emphasizes hours, work, or family tend to report higher role-overload, more work-to-family interference, as well as more family-to-work interference. On the other hand, an organization supporting a healthy balance between work and life has employees who report lower levels of role overload, and of work interfering with family and family interfering with work.
The report also indicated that work-life conflict depends mostly on who we report to, rather than the organization we work for. Specifically, the behavior of the employee’s manager — that is, the degree to which the manager engages in supportive versus non-supportive behaviors — plays an essential role in predicting work-life conflict, role overload, work-to-family interference, and how much flexibility an employee perceives having in regards to work hours and work schedules.
Some signs of work-life imbalance:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling that you don’t have control of your life
- Feeling especially irritable
- Feeling often tense and agitated
- Difficulty sleeping, or concentrating
- Feeling guilty over not spending enough time with family
- Feeling guilty over neglicting or sacrificing some aspects of your personal life
- Feeling guilty over spending too many hours at work
- Cutting back on your social life
- Forgoing having children
- Feeling less productive at work
- Quality of work has decreased
- You are frequently late to work
- Feeling less excited or enthusiastic for your work and your personal life
- Trying to do more and work harder by reducing sleeping hours
Finding a healthy balance between work and life is different for every person; it is determined individually. In general, we feel that we have achieved a balance between work and our personal life whenever we perceive that we can cope effectively with the various responsibilities and roles without compromising our mental, physical and social health.
Some helpful things we can do to move closer towards a healthy balance between work and life:
- Prioritizing responsibilities, which involve making decisions, making choices and setting up realistic expectations
- Limiting the number of engagements
- Delegating responsibilities
- Planning ahead of time your schedule for the day/week
- Separating work from personal life or creating boundaries between work and personal life as much as possible – For example: reducing the frequency of checking work emails at home; turning off the cell phone whenever possible; leaving the laptop at work.
- Developing tolerance and acceptance that not everything can be done all at once and that working harder and harder by sacrificing or neglecting other responsibilities will likely be over time harmful to your health and quality of life.
- Taking your vacation time
- Helping the transition from work to home by engaging in a relaxing activity. For example: taking a walk, listening to music
- Engaging in a pleasant activity/hobby and integrating the activity into your everyday routine (e.g., reading your favorite book; watching your favorite episode; dancing and singing; painting; sewing; drawing)
- Engaging in physical exercise (e.g., walking for 20-30 minutes per day)
- Having a healthy diet
- Adopting proper sleep hygiene
Some helpful things employers and organizations can do to help their employees achieve a healthy balance between work and life:
- Providing flexible work hours whenever possible
- Providing manageable workload
- Clearly defining roles and responsibilities
- Providing employees with opportunities to be more involved with decisions about their work
- Having managers provide a supportive work environment, support employees achieve work/life balance, encourage employees to use any policies/programs/benefits implemented by the organization on work life balance
- Offering leaders and managers with training and workshops on how to support employees achieve work/life balance
- Providing a supportive reintegration into work after a leave of absence
Achieving a healthy balance between work and our personal life offers tremendous benefits and rewards and in turn, enhances our quality of life.