All of us have been there, running into the office late or sneaking out early to make a personal appointment. We feel guilty for prioritising our personal life over work, for leaving our colleagues hanging and wonder again how other people manage to find work-life balance.
The aim of work-life balance isn’t having more free time. Its main benefit lies in the fact that with less stress at work and fewer worries, we sleep better, live healthier and ultimately become happier. And all of that while still meeting our goals in the office.
Employees in the UK are starting to take their personal health and happiness more seriously and organisations that acknowledge life outside of work - and support their staff in living a full life - are more attractive to candidates. The 2016 results of the annual Randstad Award survey highlight how important good work-life balance is, confirming it as a top five factor that motivates UK workers.
What makes the search for work-life balance hard is that it is not a one-size fits all. The balance each of us needs varies as our priorities and lives are completely different. It’s also unrealistic to expect that work-life balance is the same every day, like life itself, it’s much more fluid and changes over time. This fluid nature that runs against work traditions and office etiquette makes it hard to define policies that support everyone.
But there are some practical steps that can help you create the work-life balance you need.
Achieving a work-life balance
1. Take control
You are responsible to for your own life. If you are getting increasingly anxious and stressed about how to manage your personal and professional life, don’t wait until things get to their worst. Act early and take control, acknowledge that you are struggling and actively search for solutions.
2. Set your own expectations
As Theodore Roosevelt said, comparison is the thief of joy, so identify what success looks like for you and know what your career and personal goals are. Finding balance means you need to know your priorities and get them straight. Nobody can have it all and you might need to make some tough calls to find the work-life balance you need.
3. Manage technology
Set clear rules for yourself when and where you are using technology for work. Maybe you want to give your personal life your undivided attention once you leave the office, or maybe you feel that having flexibility with your schedule is what you need and checking emails and messages in the evening actually helps you to find balance. Just be sure to set the boundaries you need.
4. Learn to say no
No need to get angry or rude and no need to give explanations and justifications. Learn to respectfully decline additional projects that others want to unload to you. This will be liberating!
5. Work smarter
The value you bring to your role shouldn’t be measured in the hours you spent at work but in your contribution. Learn to avoid getting caught up in less productive work activities and prioritise.
Finding work-life balance doesn't need to start with dramatic changes. Every step in the right direction will make you feel better. And small things matter, so start with identifying and transforming some key moments in your everyday life that help you balance a happy personal life with the successful career you want.