A healthy work/life balance means different things to different people. For some, it’s being able to switch off work mode entirely after closing their laptop for the day. For others, it’s about finding a way to work hard and succeed without letting work take over their lives. Finding the right balance for each of us can make a significant difference in our overall happiness, professional fulfillment, and personal well-being.
The Current Situation
Research in the UK shows that workers are pulling away from the expectation that working long hours is necessary for their professional success.
And in today’s new work structures, the traditional office boundaries have expanded, and flexible approaches have become the norm. There are benefits and drawbacks to working remotely, though, and it doesn’t work for everyone. A recent survey revealed that remote work is having an impact on people’s mental health, with 67% saying they felt less connected to their colleagues and 56% saying they found it harder to switch off. Only a third of respondents (34%) had been offered support with their mental health from their employer.
Yet for some, the pandemic has improved their work/life balance. A recent survey of 1,010 US employees from the invoicing company Skynova found that 83% of people believe they currently have a positive work/life balance, as opposed to 79% of those people who believed their pre-pandemic work/life balance was positive.
Define Your Priorities
While there can never be a perfect balance, the first step is to make a list of your wants and needs. This list will vary for different people and maybe even from time to time for the same person, but be sure it reflects your priorities — and not your employer’s.
How you feel about your work/life balance is typically influenced by a number of factors. Having a flexible schedule, having more time for family and hobbies, not having to work overtime, being able to take breaks during the workday, and being able to take enough vacation time without feeling guilty are all factors mentioned in the Skynova study.
Consider what’s most essential to you right now: Is it necessary for me to work from home full-time? Do I want to extend my vacation? Would it make me feel better if I could exercise during the workday? Only once you’ve identified your unique needs can you be certain of the best solutions for you.
For example, one of my top priorities is to travel as much as possible. I’m fortunate to work for a company that has a fantastic remote work policy. Because I live far away from my family, this policy allows me to visit them for longer periods of time while still fulfilling my obligations. It also allowed me to fly to Spain recently for a week of remote work. I feel very fortunate to be able to travel to new locations and learn about other cultures while also staying on top of my to-do list.
What You Can Control
It’s easy to point the finger at your boss or difficult clientele for your work/life conflicts. However, you might have more power over your work/life balance than you think.
I believe it is so important to maintain perspective. I make an effort to be calm in stressful situations, reminding myself that what appears to be the end of the world for my client is generally a minor issue that can always be resolved. This allows me to regulate my stress levels while remaining engaged and enthusiastic about the work I undertake.
Is it really necessary to answer business emails late at night or to work on a holiday? Those practices can become self-destructive habits over time. Despite this, a poll conducted by global employment firm Robert Half found that 68% of professionals who switched to a remote arrangement during the pandemic work on weekends.
Know When to Seek Professional Help
Talk to a mental health specialist if your life feels too chaotic to handle and you’re spinning your wheels fretting about it. Take advantage of available employee assistance programs. Taking that first step in asking for help can seem overwhelming, but ultimately this will only benefit you.
As your family, interests, and career evolve, finding work/life balance becomes an ongoing endeavor. Examine your priorities on a regular basis and make modifications as needed to ensure you’re on track. Your future self will thank you.