Julie Tucker
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Is your work/life balance healthy?

Have you ever worried that work is taking over your personal life, leaving you feeling dissatisfied with both?

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance means different things to each of us: it’s not always as simple as splitting your time 50/50 between your job and social life.

Enjoying fulfilment in both your home and work life is equally important and will leave you feeling better health-wise. In turn, this can help you to be more creative and productive at work.

According to research, 77% of employees have experienced burnout in their job at least once, so it’s vital to get the balance right. Almost three-quarters (72%) of workers think their work/life balance is an important factor when applying for a new job and 57% say they won’t consider a position where there’s a poor work/life ratio.

What is a healthy work/life balance?

All kinds of factors can create a healthy balance. Consider whether you’re meeting your deadlines, while still enjoying time with friends and taking part in hobbies. Do you have enough time to relax and get a good night’s sleep? Are you eating well and not worrying about your job when you’re at home? If you can answer “yes” to all these questions, there’s a good chance you’ve got the balance right.

For some, this can be particularly challenging if they have health concerns, family caring responsibilities or a particularly demanding employer.

Surveys have revealed that 67% of workers believe corporate culture or some aspect of their work, including colleagues, is creating a poor work/life balance. It’s all about finding a balance that’s best for you, your employer and your loved ones, so no one suffers.

What are the signs of an unhealthy balance?

If you’ve been working long hours or you have a heavy workload that makes you feel stressed, it can be too easy to normalise it when you’ve been doing it for a long time. When you see other colleagues in the same situation, you may not even realise how wrong this is.

It’s good to take a step back sometimes to consider your deep-rooted assumptions about work and determine whether anything needs to change. It can be challenging to alter things at work. For example, you may feel uncomfortable speaking up if you’re on a zero-hours contract, or if you’re struggling financially and don’t want to risk losing money to pay your bills.

However, if you don’t nip problems in the bud, you’re in serious danger of suffering stress and burnout. In the longer term, this can affect your ability to earn far more seriously if you become too unwell to work at all.

A survey in 2021 revealed that 29% of respondents experienced “dread” at the thought of going in to work. Of those employees who admit to having experienced burnout at work, 83% say it has negatively impacted relationships with friends and family. Yet 25% of employees say they “never” take time off work because they are so busy, with 62% having to check company emails outside work hours because they haven’t had time during the day.

If this is you, there’s a good chance you have a poor work/life balance, but you have become so used to it that you’re not really aware it’s making you ill!

How can I improve my work/life balance?

Many people don’t take stock until there’s a major family event such as a new baby, a serious illness, or a bereavement. Suddenly, we sit back and wonder where we’re going in life.

The key is to take stock NOW, rather than waiting until something unusual happens. Write things down if it helps, but ask yourself the following questions: What are my priorities? Am I losing out on my personal life because of my job? How do I feel every day about going to work? Answering these questions is a useful exercise in self-analysis, as once you’re aware of your feelings, you can start making some necessary changes.

If you’re working extra-long hours, ask yourself if it’s worth missing out on family time at weekends. Consider the alternatives and the things you can change to improve your situation. This could include working flexible hours that fit in not only with your working priorities but also with your personal life.

One thing that has happened since the Covid-19 pandemic and homeworking is greater flexibility for workers. It has made us realise that in the case of flexible working hours, the seemingly impossible is possible after all!

Enforced homeworking has made many managers and employees realise flexible arrangements can work much better than they ever thought possible. It has given people the opportunity to develop their skills and make it work through necessity. Now, workers are realising they can carry on with flexible working arrangements to help improve their job conditions and give them more time to spend with loved ones.

Can coworking help?

While homeworking was a necessity during the lockdowns, it wasn’t ideal in some respects. It was certainly more flexible, but there were distractions such as pets, the TV, the kitchen and people coming around. Also, a home office isn’t the ideal environment to meet clients when we’re trying to impress. In comparison, a coworking space proves the ideal blend of flexibility and professionalism. We still have the ability to work flexible hours to fit in with our other responsibilities and personal life, but with the benefits of a professional office environment and the latest technology.

The number of people choosing coworking spaces is increasing rapidly. Globally, more than two million people are using coworking spaces, according to data compiled in September 2022. This number is expected to increase to five million by 2024. Over the past five years, there has been a 44% increase in employees working remotely.

Choosing a coworking space means you can work smart, not long. Prioritise your tasks and estimate a certain amount of time per job. Don’t get bogged down in unstructured and less productive activities that take much longer than they should. Have a plan and do your best to stick to it.

It’s also important to take breaks at work, rather than working right through the day without stopping because you think you’re too busy. Again, a coworking space allows for this, because it’s up to you when you take a break – even if you take just 15 minutes for a walk in the fresh air or a change of scenery by going for a coffee, you’ll return to your desk feeling refreshed and able to work better.

Finding a balance isn’t just down to you, unless you’re a lone entrepreneur: your company and manager also play a role. Every business should offer a culture of openness, where people can speak up if they feel under pressure and stressed. Companies should offer flexible hours and remote working where possible, especially if they spot that workers are looking stressed.

People battling mental health issues in the workplace will affect employee wellbeing, productivity, engagement and a company’s reputation – no reputable business wants to be known for having stressed-out staff who work extra-long hours.

People taking time off work due to their mental health is estimated to cost a UK company around £1,652 per employee every year. A coworking space can enable working habits that enhance a positive state of mind and a healthy work/life balance. If you’re considering coworking yourself, contact Headspace Group for details of how we can help. You’ll be glad you did!


© Martin Novak / Shutterstock.com

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