Have you ever felt you just don’t have enough hours in the day to do fulfill your obligations, let alone to devote time to activities you enjoy? According to the US Department of Labor more than sixty percent of US citizens are employed, and that means the majority of us understand how difficult yet important it is to find the right balance between work, obligations and extracurriculars.
In fact, according to study by the Corporate Executive Board that surveyed over 50,000 workers, work-life balance ranks as the second most important quality in the workplace.
The relatively new concept of work-life balance can be defined as the successful separation and/or harmony between one’s job (work life) and non-work related activities and obligations. These include the family, the self, the spirit and one’s personal health.
This concept has become increasing more prevalent in today’s society; several studies have shown that the younger generations of workers view work-life balance as important and necessary, and approach their work lives differently than their predecessors, wanting more control and flexibility over their work schedules.
Is Your Smartphone to Blame?
However, with the constant evolution of technology allowing for workers to take their job responsibilities out of the office and into the non-work environment means that finding ways to achieve work-life balance is not only more prevalent in today’s society, but more challenging as well.
A study from the Journal of Management positively correlated extra hours worked outside the office using “communication technologies” to a greater perception of work-life conflict for both the employee and his/her significant other.
Out of Balance Work Can Lead to Depression
The concept of work-life balance becomes even more significant today when we also consider that multiple studies have correlated work stress with mental health issues such as depression. Scientists from the Center for Disease Management claim that work stress is one of four factors affecting one’s mental health stability.
As we can see, work-life balance has an important role to play in our society today. But how can we achieve the perfect harmony between the job, the family and the self? While no one strategy is right for everyone, there are some basic steps we can all follow to achieve harmony between work and life.
1. Control Your Use of Technology. According to a five-year survey conducted by Harvard Business School, workers agree that managing their use of technology outside of the workplace is a critical factor in enabling them to make the switch between work and non-work activities.
A phone constantly buzzing at the dinner table means you are constantly distracted from the activity at hand. Researchers have found that unplugging from work enables us to recover from a stressful workload and focus our complete attention our non-work activities.
2. Organize Your Time. Organization of time both in the workplace and of non-work activities can lead to more productivity.
When we “work smart” we take full advantage of our time to get the most output possible during those hours. Without proper organization of our time, you may end up working extra hours outside of the set schedule in order to complete projects.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, working long hours correlates to anxiety, depression and irritability. With the amount of planning applications available today for all our technology devices, there’s no excuse for not creating a list of “to-dos”.
By putting on paper the tasks we need to complete, we can quickly prioritize what tasks need to be done before others can get started, as well as get a clear picture of how long each task will take to complete.
3. Search for Flexibility. Studies have shown that the ability to control one’s schedule allows for an increased ability to achieve work-life balance.
Exerting control over your work schedule can manifest itself in many ways depending on the work to be done and the work style of the employee. However, in all cases the overall idea that controlling your work schedule to some extent leads to a greater ability to balance work and non-work related tasks has been proven by multiple different studies.
For example, studies have positively correlated the “compressed work week” (working less than 5 days per week) to improvements in the employee’s work-life balance.
A study out of the University of Akron links schedule control to improvements in work-life balance. Today’s employers are increasingly more open to the idea of flexible schedules made in part by the employee, so find out if that’s a possibility for you, because it could dramatically affect your ability to harmonize work and non-work activities.
4. Just Say No. At a certain point, we all need to recognize and understand our limitations. When you continue to take on additional activities, whether work or non-work related, you take precious time away from the the things you need to do and the things you want to do.
Studies show that overloading our schedules can lead to serious health problems, such as health attacks, and not surprisingly is also linked to increased levels of stress. Avoid getting yourself involved in either work or non-work related activities that you just don’t have time for.
Achieving work-life balance is challenging. We all have distinct work and family lives so in this case, the “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t apply. Try different strategies, including the ones mentioned above, in order to find the method that best works for you and your particular obligations. While it might take time and effort to find work-life balance, it certainly proves invaluable to your mental and emotional well-being.