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Work-Life Balance in the Digital World: 10 Tips to Find It

October 4, 2022

The past few years have been transformational, especially regarding traditional work structures. Before the pandemic, clear boundaries existed between work and our personal lives, creating what felt like an acceptable work-life balance for most. And while the pandemic brought much-needed change by prioritizing employee wellbeing and normalizing work from home and flexible work arrangements, many employees today still feel overworked.

For instance, a recent survey by Asana of 10,000+ workers worldwide revealed that seven out of every ten workers experienced burnout. [1] 

Many factors contribute to burnout, including workplace culture, value alignment, and leadership. But one of the most influential factors is work-life balance. In fact, one survey from Groupon of 2,000 Americans found that 60% felt poor work-life boundaries were a significant source of stress for them. [2]

 

work-life balance
Photo by Yasmina H

What Is Work-Life Balance?

According to the American Psychological Association, work-life balance is “the level of involvement between the multiple roles in a person’s life, particularly as they pertain to employment and family or leisure activities. Achieving a good balance or fit is thought to increase life satisfaction.” [3]

In other words, it’s the balance between the different roles in our lives, specifically our work and home lives.

What work-life balance looks like is unique to each of us. Some people may feel energized by work. Others may benefit from protecting more of their time off the clock to spend time with loved ones, tend to relationships, and rest and restore their energy.

Whatever your unique balance may be, research suggests that finding that balance is essential to health and wellbeing.

Benefits of Healthy Work-Life Balance

Ultimately, the goal of balancing your work responsibilities with the rest of your life is to ensure your physical and mental health doesn’t get lost along the way.

The benefits of a healthy work-life balance can include [6]:

  • Improved relationships
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Heightened inspiration
  • Increased energy
  • Improved productivity
  • Enhanced communication
  • Better team cohesion
  • Reduced staff turnover, sick days, and absenteeism
  • Burnout prevention and support
  • Improved overall health & wellbeing
work-life balance
Photo by Karsten Winegeart

The Consequences of Poor Work-Life Balance

Research has found that not taking the time to build a healthy work-life balance can lead to a range of adverse effects.

One study found that people who work three to four hours of overtime have a 60% increased likelihood of heart-health issues in the future. Furthermore, any overtime work at all was linked with worse general health. [4]

Another study conducted by researchers at Stanford found that more hours doesn’t always equal more work done. They found that work output falls significantly for workers after they hit 50 hours a week. After 55 hours, work output drops even further. Researchers found that for workers hitting 70 hours each week, no additional work was accomplished in the extra 15 hours of overtime. [5]

Overwork can also be a significant factor in burnout, leading to fatigue, tension in relationships, poor communication, and reduced emotional, mental, and physical health [5].

 

10 Tips to Create a Healthy Work-Life Balance

1. Create Strong Boundaries

If you’re working from home, chances are your work boundaries have slipped. We’re expected to be constantly “on,” answering emails and calls as they come in, leaving us with no time to be “off” and cutting into personal time that’s essential to restoring our energy.

Try setting up clear boundaries on when you’re available for work and when you’re not. Make sure to respectfully inform your manager or team leader of when you’ll be available and when you won’t be, and shut off your work email notifications or put your computer away after hours.

 

2. Be Flexible & Aim for Balance

Naturally, there may be some days where you need to work more and others where you have less work. It’s all about balance. Hold strong to your boundaries, but consider when you may need to adapt.

 

3. Learn to Say “No”

One of the best skills you can learn is how to say “no.” Many of us worry that saying “no” will hurt or offend those around us. But the truth is, saying “yes” to everything doesn’t always help them or you. When you overextend and overwork yourself, you often end up delivering a lower quality of work than you would have liked to. 

Saying “no” helps you balance and prioritize your time and energy, so you can give your all to what really matters.

 

4. Make Time Every Day for One Activity That Lights You Up

How often do you take time to do something just for you? Every day we’re pulled in a million directions — what needs to get done at home, at work, loved ones you need to check in on, errands that need to be run… and that still doesn’t include activities that are simply there to make you feel good, fulfill you, and re-energize you.

Schedule time every day to do at least one thing that centers you and connects you with your core. Even five minutes can do wonders.

 

5. Take Breaks

Taking breaks can be a great way to clear your mind when you’re working long hours. You can combine those breaks with breathing exercises, meditation, a short stroll outside, or other activities to target stress management and support relaxation.

 

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Sick Days

Poor mental health and chronic stress contribute to poor physical health. Don’t let yourself hit that point of burnout where your body forces you to take a break. If you feel you need it, take a sick day. That’s what they’re there for! You often do not have to disclose what sort of sickness you have, so there’s no need to worry about privacy or judgment. Fatigue, anxiety, and depression are all very acceptable reasons to take a sick day.

 

7. Enjoy a Well-Earned Vacation

When was the last time you took a real vacation? Time away from work can be incredibly beneficial for restoring energy and rebuilding health. Vacation days are there for you to use, so take advantage and reap the benefits for your mental health.

 

8. Schedule Days to Completely Unplug

Try turning off all of your technology this weekend! Or, at the very least, unplug from all of your work tech and notifications. Make sure your team knows you’ll be unavailable, which goes back to creating strong boundaries, then enjoy the weekend!

work-life balance
Photo by Kelly Sikkema

9. Get Intentional With Your Off Hours

While crashing on the couch and watching Netflix can feel relaxing, have you noticed that it often doesn’t rejuvenate you? Part of the reason our time off doesn’t always feel restful is because we’re not making the most of it! Start practicing intentionality with your time outside of work. What’s going to fulfill you? Try prioritizing new experiences and activities you love.

 

10. Employers — Be Open to Adaptable Work Schedules and Flexible Hours

As we mentioned earlier, every employee will have their own needs when it comes to scheduling. At the end of the day, if your employees can give the same or higher level of productivity in a different environment or schedule that will also support their mental health and personal needs, why not offer that added support! 

Inform your employees of their options and ask what schedule they’d benefit from. You’ll build trust, respect, loyalty, and camaraderie.

 

References:

  1. Read about Asana’s Survey HERE >>
  2. Discover Groupon’s Survey HERE >>
  3. Learn about the APA’s definition of work-life balance HERE >>
  4. Explore the UCL Study on the effects of overwork HERE >>
  5. Read about the relationship between overwork and productivity HERE >>
  6. The Surprising Benefits of Work/Life Support HERE >>

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