July 14th, 2020

5 simple ways to improve your work-life balance

Do you find it hard to balance your work and family commitments? If so, you’re not alone.

The latest UK Working Lives survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has revealed that poor work-life balance is one of the biggest issues facing UK workers.

The study found that three in five people (60%) say they work longer hours than they want, while one in four (24%) say they overwork by ten or more hours a week.

A quarter (24%) admit that they find it difficult to relax in their own time because they are thinking about work, while many admitted that their job caused disruption to family life and made it hard for them to switch-off in their downtime.

Getting the balance right can be tough – especially if you’re one of the millions of people currently working from home. So, to help you, here are five simple ways to improve your work-life balance.

1. Learn to unplug

One of the main issues – particularly when you work from home – is setting a boundary between your home and work life. You will probably have found yourself checking your work emails late at night or taking calls outside your normal office hours.

The consequence of this is that it’s hard to relax, as you are more likely to be thinking about work-related issues. So, it’s important to limit the time for work and to set clear boundaries.

Avoid texts or emails which involve work over the weekend or outside of work times. Consider changing your settings so you can no longer access work emails on your personal phone, and physically put your laptop away at the end of the working day. By switching it off, closing the lid and putting it in a drawer, you’re much less likely to ‘do that one last bit of work’.

2. Use your annual leave

2016 research by holiday firm Airtours revealed that 40% of British workers were guilty of not utilising their full holiday entitlement. One in six employees questioned also admitted to having more than a full working week of unused holiday spare.

Taking annual leave is an important way of recuperating and recharging your batteries. As well as giving you the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, it’s also good for your physical and mental wellbeing as it gives you a break from the stresses and strains of work.

Measures recently announced by the government mean that workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to coronavirus will now be able to carry it over into the next two leave years. So, there’s no excuse not to unwind by taking your full annual leave entitlement!

3. Make time for yourself and your family

It’s always worth remembering that, before you took your current job, you were an individual with family, friends and hobbies. You shouldn’t have to give that up just because of your work.

What this means is that you may have to be more organised and plan your personal time. For example, you could schedule an hour at 5pm in your diary as the time you spend with your children.

By planning ahead, you can regain more control over your time and your life. It might not be romantic but create a calendar for family time or date nights. It means you’re less likely to neglect your personal relationships by working all the time.

It’s important to remember that, even if you’re a vital part of your work team, no one at your business will love or appreciate you in the way your loved ones do.

4. Look after your health

If you’re not in good health, it’s both your work and your personal life that will suffer. So, it’s important to look after yourself by:

  • Eating well – have a healthy breakfast and eat a balanced diet
  • Sleeping well – this increases your stamina and improves your clarity
  • Exercise – as well as keeping you healthy, exercise relieves stress, raises your energy level, boosts your immune system and makes you a happier person
  • Cutting down on alcohol and tobacco – these substances only tend to keep the body in a stressed state, and so could cause you even more mental and physical problems.

5. Learn to say ‘no’

Saying no can be difficult, especially at work. We’re taught to be positive and come up with solutions, not problems, and to have a ‘can-do’ attitude.

However, if you agree to work on every project, host every meeting and attend every event, you’ll soon find yourself with no time left for anything else. You’ll also find yourself stressed and working all hours of the day and night.

Here are some ways of saying ‘no’:

  • Supply the person making the request with some context about your workload and other projects you are working on. Say “I would be unable to focus fully on your project and my other work would suffer”
  • Don’t say ‘no’ until you need to. Think about whether a colleague could help out, or whether there are other jobs you could delegate so you don’t have to say ‘no’ at all
  • Be honest about why you are saying ‘no’. Don’t make up excuses, just be completely candid about the reasons
  • Offer to help in other ways, or ask if you can be of assistance without taking the whole job on yourself
  • Prepare yourself for negative feedback. You can’t please all the people all the time, so accept that saying ‘no’ may have short-term repercussions

Occasionally saying ‘no’ can have a positive impact on your own sense of wellbeing. It can also help you to create a happier, healthier workplace.

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