For years, we’ve heard the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between your work and home life. However, since it’s easier than ever to be virtually connected to the office 24/7, working during the “off hours” is now the norm, not the exception. What about you? Are you able to truly leave work behind when you leave work?
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index ranks countries on a variety of factors, including work/life balance. Their latest numbers show that 11% of U.S. employees work 50 hours a week or more. Furthermore, their “evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress.” Not having enough leisure time can also turn to resentment, which can in turn lead to a variety of physical and emotional issues, including depression, insomnia, irritability and exhaustion.
If your work/life balance is tipping in the wrong direction, try these tips:
1) Re-evaluate your schedule. It may be time to take a good hard look at where you’re truly spending your time. We are all given the same “budget” of 168 hours per week. We have to allocate these hours between work, family/childcare and leisure. Do you feel that there’s never enough time to fit it all in? Are there tasks/chores you can delegate? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Can your spouse/partner assist in cooking or cleaning? What about the kids – it may be time for a “chore chart.” You might be pleasantly surprised to see that even the youngest will want to pitch in. Make it a team effort.
2) Schedule an electronics shut off time and STICK TO IT. The constant interruption of emails, texts and calls keep you in a state that never allows you to truly relax. The National Sleep Foundation reports that “cell phones and computers, which make our lives more productive and enjoyable, may also be abused to the point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night – leaving millions of Americans functioning poorly the next day.” This cycle needs to stop. Start by weaning yourself away and work up to shutting off all devices one hour (yes, one hour!) before bed. The light from these devices can also impact sleep rhythms. To lessen this glare, you can install an app like f.lux that makes the color of your screen adapt to the time of day, avoiding the harsh light that inhibits sleep.
3) Make time for the basics. You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again. Exercise, meditation and mindfulness go a long way towards creating balance in your life. This may mean cutting back on activities and commitments to make time for self care. The rewards you gain from this are well worth the effort.
4) Overhaul time wasting habits. Do you really need to check your email every 5 minutes? Can you eat at least one meal without checking your phone? Do you allow colleagues to take up too much of your time with small talk? Can you delegate any parts of your job?
5) Establish new rituals. Even vowing to leave work 5 minutes earlier can make a difference. Start with simple, small changes and follow through on them. No empty promises!
In today’s economy, many people feel the pressure to do whatever it takes to keep their job. Financial factors will always play a large role in whether to tolerate a less than ideal work schedule. However, the true cost to your health and well being must also be taken into consideration. Awareness and acknowledgement are a start, followed by taking proactive steps towards creating a more balanced life both in & out of the office.
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