Achieving a healthy work-life balance is a fine art and often is hard to get right at the best of times. This could be particularly challenging at the moment when working from home blurs the boundaries between work and home. Here, we take a look at how you can find that ‘balance’.
- A positive work environment leads to a positive atmosphere
- Plan when to take breaks and when to complete tasks
- Balancing life is not about making everything 50/50
Even before lockdown, a survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that more than 40% of employees were neglecting parts of their life outside of work and that when working long hours 27% of employees started to feel depressed, 34% felt anxious and 58% felt irritable. Optimizing how you work, where you work, and why you work, can have positive effects on your long-term mental health that can, in turn, help you to pursue your life goals and ventures.
So how can we achieve a ‘balance’?
Be deliberate with your work environment
Everyone has good days and bad days. Now that many people are having to mix their home space with their work environment, trying to step away for a moment is not always easy. Try to choose a dedicated workspace solely for work. It is also important when working from home or in an office to have a specific space where you can go for a break.
Difficulties separating work from home can easily be heightened by a cluttered work environment, as research has shown. Adbul Razip, in 2015, studied the importance of the working environment on employees’ job satisfaction. The data indicated that employees that worked in a good environment were definitively more satisfied with their job.
Having plants in office space could help to make a workspace a nicer place to be. A study on the effects of plants in an office space found that when more plants were placed in an office space, “Consistent with expectations, participants reported higher levels of mood, perceived office attractiveness, and (in some cases) perceived comfort when plants were present than when they were not present.”
Create artificial deadlines
Be aware of Parkinson’s Law – the adage that ‘work expands to fill the time available for completion.’ In other words, the longer you have to do something, the longer you will take to do it. This could work in several ways. Opposite to working efficiently, the process can be lengthened if we have more time to do it. This can be particularly true if you are a perfectionist as you may spend too long on a task. Another consequence of having a long deadline is that you may end up procrastinating and not getting on with it.
Research funded by the Swedish government found that it’s possible to assign less time to get tasks done. In this case, “68 nurses who worked six-hour days took half as much sick time as those in the control group (with standard 8 hour days). And they were 2.8 times less likely to take any time off.”
Creating artificial deadlines can help overcome procrastination as there is more urgency to complete the task. This will increase focus and could increase efficiency. In terms of productivity, you get more done in less time.
Take short breaks and clock off to keep your mind fresh
Employees who take breaks are both more productive and creative in comparison to those who choose not to. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one strategy to implement would be to take 5-minute breaks every hour throughout the workday, whilst more traditional approaches tend to lean towards two 15-minute breaks per day.
Walking and leaving the house can be extremely beneficial for your mental state and overall wellbeing and can even be an effective productivity-boosting activity.
It is easy to carry on working past ‘clock off time’ when you are working from home and work can easily spill over into time that should be spent in other areas of your life. If you are working towards deadlines or finishing off emails late into the evening, you aren’t able to recover properly for the next day. Cutting ties with the outside world for a few hours gives us the ability to recover from a busy day.
Most importantly, self-awareness is paramount
As with everything, not all tips will apply to you as your life is unique. To find your own work-life balance, the best thing you can do is to evaluate your own goals, desires, choices, wants and needs, and to understand the path you are choosing. With that said, if the demands of work do pile up, do not be afraid to speak to your employer to make sure they are aware of the situation and can address any concerns.
Ultimately, both your work life and your home life should be fulfilling and satisfying. To achieve balance, try the tips given by researchers and then adapt them to your life. Then you will have control over what matters to you.
Greenfield, Rebecca. “The Six-Hour Workday works in Europe. What About America?” Business. 2016. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-10/the-six-hour-workday-works-in-europe-what-about-america?utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=webfeeds.
Larsen, Larissa, and co. “Plants in the Workplace: The Effects of Plant Density on Productivity, Attitudes, and Perceptions.” Environment and Behavior. 30.3 (1998): 261-281. DOI:10.1177/001391659803000301.
Mental Health Foundation. “Work-life balance.” https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/w/work-life-balance/.
Randolph, Susan A. “The Importance of Employee Breaks.” Workplace Health & Safety. 64.7 (2016). DOI: 10.1177/2165079916653416.
Raziq, Abdul and Maulabaklsh, Raheela. “Impact of Working Environment on Job Satisfaction.” Procedia Economics and Finance. 23 (2015): 717-725. DOI: 10.1016/S2212-5671(15)00524-9.
The Economist. “Parkinson’s Law.” (2020). https://www.economist.com/news/1955/11/19/parkinsons-law