Work life balance is about finding the right combination of hard work and personal leisure/family time. Not finding time to unwind, relax and do things that you enjoy can have severe impacts on your mental and physical health.
Do you regularly find yourself staying late at the office? Do you constantly work through your lunch break? Many feel that these habits make them more productive, this has been proven to not only be untrue but can often achieve the complete opposite.
The health implications for those lacking a healthy work life balance are considerable.
There is a firm link between tiredness from over-working and a range of mental heath issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. Mental health organisations voice significant concerns regarding the effects of increasing working hours with three in every ten employees experiencing some form of mental health problem in any year. This along with studies showing that 25% of people reporting to have fallen ill due to stress and overwork highlights the importance of ensuring that you take suitable time to spend with family and friends, doing things that you enjoy.
The health implications of overworking stretch beyond mental health problems. A recent study has found that those working excessive hours (55+ every week) were 33% more likely to suffer from a stroke and 13% more likely to develop coronary heart disease. It has also been found that increased strain from overworking and stress increases the risk of developing type 2 Diabetes.
Commitment to your work is an admirable trait however it is simply not worth sacrificing your health and/or happiness for. Once your work starts impacting your health then it is time to seriously reconsider the way you are approaching it, your productivity levels will drop as will the standard of your work at which point neither you or your employer is benefitting.
There are a number of simple steps you can take to ensure you create and maintain a healthy work life balance.
• Force yourself to go home – Many find it incredibly difficult to leave work when in the middle of something, preferring to stay late rather than pick it up in the morning. Most things can wait and the likelihood is that you will get it done a lot quicker and to a much higher standard at the beginning of a new day following some decent sleep rather than at the end of a long day. Shut down your computer and go home!
• Take your lunch breaks – In many offices there is a common sight, sandwiches (or alternative lunch fare) being eaten at desks as many sacrifice their lunch breaks in favour of working through them. Taking time to get away from your desk (or other workspace), getting some fresh air (possibly some sun) and clearing your head will have a positive impact on your productivity levels and general happiness.
• Ask for help – Many people overwork as a result of overwhelming workloads which they struggle to manage in regular working hours. The same people are often unwilling to ask for help with their work as they fear it will be seen as a sign of weakness. The truth is that everyone needs help sometimes and if your workload is forcing you to sacrifice significant amounts of your personal time then you need to take some action to lessen it. Ask your colleagues for help or speak to your manager about your workload, they would rather help you manage it than it cause you unnecessary stress and illness.
• Take your holidays – Holidays are a fantastic opportunity to take some much needed rest time, unwind and recharge your batteries.
A recent study uncovered that up to a third of employees in the UK don’t use all of their annual leave entitlement with many people citing that they were worried about falling behind with their work. It is your company’s responsibility to ensure that the resources are in place to cover those on holiday without them having to worry about or not take it at all. Take your holiday, enjoy the opportunity to get away and come back refreshed and ready to go!
• Make plans – Ensuring that you have plenty of plans in your diary to see friends or do things you enjoy can go a long way to keeping your spirits up. Having these things to look forward to can be a big boost, you just need to make sure that you keep these plans.
So there you have it, looking out for yourself and your free time is not only in your best interest but that of your employer too. Maintaining a work life balance will keep you healthy and happy, anything that sacrifices either of these is simply not worth it.