Managing your time, adopting productivity hacks, and creating a more flexible work schedule so you can spend more time at home. People often describe work-life balance as the perfect administration of these. But to understand this concept, you first need to understand its basis: balance. Quite a common term for us, right? But what does it mean?
What is Work-Life Balance and Why is It Important?
According to the dictionary, “balance is having the right amount (not too much or too little) of any quality, leading to harmony or evenness.” So for work-life balance, you’ll have to manage your professional and personal life evenly to avoid losing your mind.
It’s easy to say. But in practice, establishing a work-life balance working remotely can be far more complicated.
The term first appeared in the U.K. in the ’80s as a plank in the Women’s Liberation Movement, advocating for flexible schedules and maternity leave. While men were socially allowed to pursue their career goals without worrying about housekeeping and family-raising, working women were expected to labor and preserve family responsibilities. Luckily, though they had to voice their needs, women could experience a little relief or movement towards work-life balance.
So, work-life balance is a highly influential factor for establishing a healthy work environment. And maintaining it helps you reduce stress and prevent burnout at work. Nowadays, chronic stress is one of the most common health issues for employees, and it can lead to several negative consequences like hypertension, digestive problems, or heart problems. But why take the risk when you can avoid it? How can remote workers improve work-life balance?
Strategies for Better Work-life Balance
1. Avoid Stressful Situations
Imagine for a moment that your boss has emailed you at the last minute about a new assignment to deliver immediately. Your body and mind instantly respond, activating a physical reaction called the flight-or-flight response. Your heart beats faster, your breath quickens, and your muscles tense. And to control your anxiety and negative self-talk, you work late into the night to complete the task.
But what happens if you encounter these stressful experiences every day? The problem with most employees is they believe they have no choice. According to Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, work stress is the 5th cause of death in the United States, and a quarter of Americans identify their job as their number one source of stress.
Work-life balance is 100% created through your choices. And accepting to take more work when you don’t have the time or capacity creates unnecessary stress. Over time, chronic work stress can lead to a psychological syndrome known as burnout, creating exhaustion, cynicism, and a sense of inefficacy.
The common reasons for work-life imbalance are: having too much work, inadequate pay, lack of community between coworkers, or a mismatch between teamwork and personal values. So if you’re looking to improve your balance, here are some choices you could start making:
- Say no to unnecessary tasks or assignments that aren’t priorities
- Delegate as much as can be delegated to your teammates
- Each day, choose to accomplish the priorities. Non-priorities can wait
- Always aim for your own mental and physical health; it’s the only way you’ll reach positive outcomes
2. Prioritize Your Wellbeing
A focus on your wellbeing means taking care of your whole self. People have three dimensions to take care of: physical, emotional, and spiritual. These areas intersect to make up your overall health, and when you meet everyday life demands, you create the space you need to connect with the world around you. So, how can you build this kind of environment at work?
Corporate well-being refers to the process of creating a healthy workspace and giving leaders and employees the necessary tools and support to grow. By incorporating wellbeing into your company or team, you can build a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce. And even achieve better results!
The human brain is not meant to feel stressed out and under pressure all the time. That’s why when you feel balanced, you’re more capable of dealing with negative emotions and thoughts. Creating this balance will give you more space to think, allowing subconscious thoughts to arise. But no one will build your work-life balance for you!
According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, people – and primarily employees – should follow the 5-minute stress relief method daily to combat work stress and feel re-energized. The quick work-life balance tips are:
- Brief relaxation: even a few minutes of meditation can help you de-stress. Sit with a straight, relaxed back, inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts, imagine all your tension is now on the floor, and spend a few minutes in this state of relaxation, focusing on your center and breathing slowly.
- Visualize imagery: your mind can go anywhere. So, visualize a place where you feel safe and at peace and repeat to yourself “I’m relaxed. I’m safe here”. You’ll be the only one who can create this state of meditation.
- Deep breathing: total concentration on your breathing can increase the flow of oxygen to your body and help you lose tension. Sit somewhere comfortable for some minutes, do a few slow, deep breaths (don’t try to control your thoughts, let them run naturally), and if your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath.
- Stretching: these exercises may get your blood flowing and improve circulation while increasing flexibility and relieving muscle tension. Move your arms, your neck, your feet, and every muscle you find rigid. Your whole body is connected to your mind, so to improve your performances – at work or at home – make sure you alleviate them both.
Try them to see how it goes for you. Plus, now you are at home, so you don’t have to worry about colleagues watching you stretch like a dog waking up.
3. When You Are Present, Be Present
Working from home makes it hard to focus on one thing at a time. Your mind feels like it’s always “on,” crowded with thoughts that can sometimes be hard to decipher.
When you gather with family or friends, you’re thinking about work, and when you are at work meetings, you’re thinking about what you’ll have for lunch. It’s like you never are where your physical body is. And that’s the reason why your work-life balance strategy isn’t working.
You worry about the laundry, the unwashed dishes, or how guilty you feel about not making it to your child’s piano recital. One of the most significant complaints employees have is the inability to be present. And the thing is, you can’t be in two places at a time; it just won’t work.
The good news is that you can train your brain to become more present and calm through the consistent practice of mindfulness exercises. These will help you create a work-life balance functional enough to: be closer to your colleagues’ and relatives’ emotions, improve at responding to people intuitively, and become aware of the circumstances around you.
4. Connect With Your Relation-ships
Having a balanced and happy lifestyle means developing connections with other people (family, colleagues, or friends). An emotional connection is a feeling of alignment and intimacy between two people, having fun together, surface-level conversations, or even intellectual similarities. Making you feel secure and connect deeply with that other person.
The problem is connecting with and relating to others isn’t happening enough these days. People are too busy – or seem to be – and allowing technology to get in the way of real human connection can cause some negative consequences.
From connections with colleagues or relatives, you’ll derive purposes in your relationships, creating higher levels of quality time with them. Therefore, you’ll be able to perform an improved version of yourself with them. According to therapist Josie Rosario “just like children, adults need to feel a secure attachment to another adult. We need to know that someone will be consistently available, especially for emotional needs”.
So search for this connection to balance your work-personal life. Care about your pairs’ feelings and emotions, share how you feel about things, and learn to listen; there’s nothing more comforting than a good listener.
5. Engage at Work
This isn’t new to you. We all know by now that when employees are happy and motivated at their job, they’re more likely to be more engaged. But what does it mean “to feel engaged”?
Being engaged is about feeling committed to doing something that you do your best. According to Gallup’s survey, only about 34% of U.S. workers feel engaged at work. And the bad news is, many employers falsely believe engagement increases through pressure or incentives. But it doesn’t.
Although it might work in the short term, you’ll end up feeling anxious, stressed, and resented. And that’s not exactly the recipe for long-term engagement or morale at work.
To increase work-life balance, employees need to feel less stressed, mentally and physically healthy. So priorities first. Focus on yourself and implement the necessary tools to achieve the right balance, and then you’ll be able to focus on the ones around you.
You’ll need to generate practices that’ll lead to a dynamic and communicative performance between your teammates. Providing constant feedback to your work team is a way to increase their engagement, consequently a balanced relationship. To raise motivation, connect, and frequently communicate with your colleagues, everyone needs to be heard and even encouraged sometimes.
It’s All About Finding the Right Balance Between Work and Life!
Employers and employees need to realize work-life balance is more than just how many hours you work. Apart from promoting flexibility, employers should strive to improve the overall work experience, prioritize a healthy culture, and cultivate a happy environment to increase workers’ work-life balance.
If employees are happy, work feels like a second home and less like working for a paycheck. Maximizing team member’s productivity will always remain a constant goal, and by granting the time teams need away from work, employers would be able to retain those talented employees. Take control of the things you can handle, and let go of the rest. Invest your free time in your interests and relationships. Now it’s your time to create the perfect work-life balance!