Finding the Right Work-Life Balance for Healthy Relationships and Personal Wellness
What Is Work-Life Balance?
Healthy work-life balance means maintaining a harmonious relationship between your work and personal life. In other words, keeping a balance between working hours and personal life to avoid burnout, underperforming, or harming relationships.
Do you feel like you spend too much time at your desk and away from family? Or do you find yourself constantly thinking of work even when you’re at home? You’re not the only one. In fact, more than 60 percent of U.S. employees feel like they are missing work-life balance. (1)
It’s becoming increasingly more common and more difficult in today’s day and age to keep the right work-life balance. With technology, it’s easy to check your phone at home for emails or send a quick message to your coworkers at night before you forget.
Plus, with more of the workforce being remote or hybrid, the separation between work and home only gets more complicated. Remote workers tend to work more, not less, because they don’t have a clear cut off time between working hours and personal hours. (2)
All in all, work and home boundaries are getting muddier.
Signs of Poor Work-Life Balance
When you’re in the day-to-day grind, it’s hard to see past yourself and be objective. It may seem like you’re doing a decent job keeping everything straight. So how do you know if your work-life balance is normal or needs adjusting? Here are some indicators you may need to reevaluate your work-life balance:
- You find yourself thinking about work constantly, even when you are with loved ones, friends, or family.
- You have a difficult time taking vacation or sick time, and when you do, you find yourself working anyway.
- Your physical health is taking an unexpected dip. You have sudden aches and pains, you’re lacking energy, and you’re getting sick more easily.
- You’re too exhausted to maintain your social life as you once did. You turn down social invitations or even find yourself speaking less to your partner or family.
- You lose interest easily in conversations at home and check your phone frequently for work emails or notifications.
- You put off chores at home and find yourself getting more and more behind. You may even use services for tasks you used to do, such as cleaning, cooking, or laundry.
- You find yourself getting into more arguments at work or in other situations. You are easily annoyed with coworkers, friends, and loved ones. Your relationships at home in particular suffer.
If any of these rings true, you may need to consider your work-life balance and what steps you may need to take to rebalance your life.
Why Does Work-Life Balance Matter?
Finding the right balance between work and play can be a challenge. But why does it matter in the long run for a healthy life?
Some of it is physical well-being. Overworking can take a toll on your body due to increased stress and burnout. Burnout has significant effects on your health, such as leading to heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, mental illness, and more. One study found that the risk of stroke is higher for people that work more than 55 hours a week. (3, 4)
Plus, overworking often leaves little time for fitness and wellness. Individuals who work long hours have less time and motivation to eat healthy or exercise. More takeout and less steps in their day often leads to a sedentary lifestyle and possible weight gain. (3)
The other major risk is to your emotional and mental health. Poor work-life balance especially hurts relationships. You may isolate yourself more without realizing it, either to spend more time on work or being too tired for social engagements. Working too much can also strain family and romantic relationships. It can make you less engaged and more irritable, and can lead to increased arguments as a couple. (5)
When it comes down to actual job performance, you might be surprised to learn that working more hours doesn’t necessarily mean getting more done. Poor work-life balance can end up with employees working more hours but being less productive. The end result is spinning your wheels, using up more and more of your time and energy at work, with nothing extra to show for it. (6)
7 Tips for Healthy Work-Life Balance
- Set boundaries and work hours
The first step you can take towards healthy work-life balance is setting clear boundaries for working hours vs. personal hours. For in-office workers, this can be a simpler process. You usually have set working hours in an office, so you can try to stick to those. Additionally, the physical separation of your office and home, and even the act of driving or traveling home, can help your mind recognize it’s time to stop working.
For remote workers, it’s a bit trickier. When work and home are at the same place, you don’t have the separation to remind yourself it’s time to stop working. Remote workers also have a harder time sticking to set work schedules. Because of this, setting boundaries and specific working hours is even more important for remote workers. To remind yourself, you can try using an alarm or notification when it’s time to stop working.
- Flexibility mindset
For some, keeping strict work and home hours may not fit their personality or lifestyle. In this case, you may want to consider a different approach. Chris Chancey, career expert and CEO of Amplio Recruiting, explains that work-life balance is less about dividing the hours in your day evenly between work and personal life. Rather, it’s more about having the flexibility to get tasks done in your professional life while still having time and energy to enjoy your personal life. There may be some days where you work longer hours so you have time later in the week to enjoy other activities. (7)
Following the advice of Chancey, keeping a flexible mindset helps you be adaptable. You understand that it’s okay to leave a few hours early to catch your son’s baseball game, or it’s okay to get to work early one morning to finish an important assignment. It’s about a fluid mindset and the expectation that since both work and home are priorities, you can switch between them as needed and depending on urgency.
- Unplug from technology
In today’s digital age, it’s so easy to get lost in your phone, and that’s just on social media or apps. When you add in the ease and convenience of checking work emails and notifications, it becomes even more challenging to leave work at work. That’s why it’s important to unplug from technology. This is different for everyone. For some, silencing your phone’s work notifications and emails is enough to stay away from work while at home. Others may need to take it even further by turning off devices altogether for a few hours at a time.
Whatever works for you, you will find that as you spend less time checking your phone, your brain will be retrained to stop thinking about it constantly. It will free up time and energy so you can focus on family life, conversations, hobbies, and other activities that help you recharge.
- Find the right job and company
Steve Jobs said to the 2005 Stanford graduating class, “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” But often it’s not just loving what you do, it’s who you work for that makes a difference. More and more research has found that companies and direct bosses are deciding factors on job satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
Part of the reason for this can also go back to work-life balance. Certain companies and managers support healthy work-life balance and even promote it. When you work for companies with a culture of work-life balance, you are more likely to avoid unhealthy habits, such as checking your phone after working hours or always working late shifts. So, yes, love what you do. But more importantly, find a company who puts work-life balance first. (8)
- Take PTO
Don’t be afraid to take PTO! It’s there for a reason. It lets you connect with friends and family, unplug from technology, and step away from work. In addition to its benefits for relationships and personal enjoyment, vacation time also supports your health. Researchers have found that people who take PTO have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals. (9)
Additionally, vacations promote productivity once you do return to work. It helps you refresh and recharge so you’re more motivated and energized afterwards. Studies have found that those who take PTO have increased productivity and less negative effects of overwork, such as burnout and fatigue. For both work-life balance, as well as personal well-being, taking a vacation now and then pays off. (10)
- Retreats and summits
For some, taking a vacation is not enough to recharge or rebalance your life. And that’s okay! This is where retreats or educational summits help out. Many retreats focus specifically on healthy work-life balance, including mindset and habits that can help keep you centered. These retreats are typically led by trained health professionals or life coaches, with practical real life takeaways and action steps. Plus, like vacations, you have the opportunity to get away from your desk, unplug from technology, and relax.
Retreats or summits may even provide the option of attending with loved ones to further support those relationships and help you learn healthy relationship skills, such as conflict resolution and stress management. Many couples want to learn and grow together, but are too busy juggling professional and personal responsibilities. Taking time away for a retreat can be a great solution so both individuals learn and are committed to finding the right work-life balance.
- Work with a life coach or therapist
In some cases, it might be beneficial to work with a life coach or licensed therapist to develop healthy boundaries and coping skills over time. Work-life balance and strained relationships are common reasons why individuals seek help. A life coach can help walk you through ways to find balance in your personal life, as well as teach you coping mechanisms and better methods to communicate.
For many, life coaches are all that’s needed to establish healthy work-life habits. However, therapists can take it a step further and help resolve any trauma or psychological roadblocks driving your behavior. They have additional training and tools at their disposal to assist in this process. Whether it be with a life coach or licensed therapist, talking with a trained professional can help you step away from bad habits and toward a healthier, more balanced mindset.
Overworking can lead to burnout, strained relationships, and failing health. On the other hand, too much time spent on personal pursuits or with family can hinder your professional development and career. Like anything in life, it’s important to find balance that fits you and your unique situation.
Setting clear boundaries between work and home, unplugging from technology, taking PTO, and attending retreats are some of the ways you can develop a healthy lifestyle. You may also find your own personal solutions to maintaining a good work-life balance. What matters is getting on the path that works for you.
There will be times when you find yourself off track. Don’t be discouraged! That’s life. You just need to course-correct along your journey. As long as you practice habits and techniques to get back on track, you will find yourself getting a little bit better, and a little more balanced, each day.