Work / Life balance – are you getting it right?. we hear about it a lot, but how many of us actually feel we are managing it successfully?
What do we mean when we talk about ‘Work-life balance’ .. well, for me, its my belief that my personal and work life is properly balanced. It means I am spending enough time achieving my goals and devoting time to the people and activities that I love. Am I achieving it.. hell no! I run my own business, I teach 11+ classes a week across Rossendale and Calderdale (lots of travelling), I manage a team of people, I have 2 children (3 if you include the husband). I have a house to run, homework to help with, shopping, washing, cleaning, a taxi service to provide (far too many extra curricular activities of my daughters), and I have demanding commitments to my church.. balance.. what balance. The majority of the time I am just grateful I have made through the day, that everyone has survived, that there is at least some nutritious food in the cupboards (ignore the hula hoop crisps, family size dairymilk and the cheese strings!)
You would think that as a self employed person, responsible for deciding when and where I work, having no-one else to answer to (ha ha.. if only..) it would be easy to switch off, unfortunately, thats not always the case. If fact, I probably struggle more than most to strike a healthy work/life balance because the lines are more blurred. Certainly I can arrange my work around my family with a lot more ease than most, but with that luxury, comes the fact that work is always on the forefront of my mind, of when I can complete tasks, reply to emails, return phone calls, catch up on marketing .. it goes on.
I read a recent survey by a Mental Health Foundation – some interesting results:
- one third of respondents feel unhappy or very unhappy about the time they devote to work
- more than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work, which may increase their vulnerability to mental health problems
- when working long hours more than a quarter of employees feel depressed (27%), one third feel anxious (34%), and more than half feel irritable (58%)
- the more hours you spend at work, the more hours outside of work you are likely to spend thinking or worrying about it
- as a person's weekly hours increase, so do their feelings of unhappiness
- many more women report unhappiness than men (42% of women compared with 29% of men), which is probably a consequence of competing life roles and more pressure to 'juggle'
There were of course some tips provided on how to have greater balance:
- Take personal responsibility for your work-life balance.
- Try to 'work smart, not long'. This involves tight prioritisation - allowing yourself a certain amount of time per task - and trying not to get caught up in less productive activities,
- Take proper breaks, for example by taking at least half an hour for lunch and getting out of the workplace if you can.
- Try to ensure that a line is drawn between work and leisure. If you do need to bring work home try to ensure that you only work in a certain area of your home - and can close the door on it.
- Take seriously the link between work-related stress and mental ill health. Try to reduce stress, for example through exercise, relaxation or hobbies.
- Recognise the importance of protective factors, including exercise, leisure activities and friendships. Try to ensure that these are not sacrificed to working longer hours, or try to ensure that you spend your spare time on these things.
On first reading these, I was a bit dismissive of them, but actually, do I take personal responsibility for my work/life balance, do I actively try and make positive changes, or do I just run around moaning that I’m too busy and stressed!
How ‘smart’ do I work, do I prioritiese well, do I get caught up in less productive activities (like this morning, watching half an hour of Lorraine, when I should have been responding to emails!)
I rarely take proper structured breaks either on the days I am teaching or on the days I am working on admin from home. So I feel that my days are constant work work work
I do have a home office, but more often than not I sit at my dining table instead, laptop together with ketchup, and kids homework, so always feel that work surrounds me
Self – care certainly takes a back seat – my gym membership over the last few months has been gathering dust (as is quite evident by the increase in the size of my muffin top!), I am maintaining a lot of friendships via facebook or messenger rather than catching up face to face and the last date night hubby and I had was a hastily ordered pizza, a Netflix movie which I of course fell asleep within the first 10mins.
Does this sound familiar to any of you?
There appears to me to be a couple of quick easy fixes:
I’m packing up my laptop and paperwork from the dinning table and moving it back to my office, I can then shut the door on it at the end of the day.
I am going to take a lunch break, and actually leave the house for an hour, treat myself to a gourmet sandwich and luxury hot chocolate at Barista 1823 (love that little place in Bacup)
I am going to the gym in the morning (ok.. might fail on that one, but I can aspire to go!)
And I’ve dropped a friend a message to see when we can next have a proper catch up (I’m not holding my breath that we’ll manage it this side of Christmas though)
Small steps can lead covering a large distance over time, so here’s to having a bit of a better balance in life when it comes to home and work.