Finding the perfect balance between the time we spend at work and the time we dedicate to other aspects of our lives is essential to maintaining good health and well-being. As our ages, stages of life and work demands change, so does or flexibility and perceived ability to manage work-life balance. Choosing the right company or employer can make all the difference to how we cope and manage our workload in the workplace.
Stress is the main health and safety issue in the workplace worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), workers who are stressed are more likely to be unhealthy, poorly motivated, less productive and less safe at work. Work-related stress is the reaction people may have when challenged to cope with work demands and pressures that do not match their knowledge and abilities. To some extent, we all have to learn new skills and remain flexible and knowledgeable in regards to different aspects of our companies’ operations. However, when our roles are defined by the parameters of our expertise we are more confident and can perform our duties better.
If you feel stressed at work, it is important that you take the necessary steps to address it, like speaking to your manager about your workload or about your job profile, speaking to HR about your employer’s commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of its employees or speaking to a trade union to find out what your rights are.
Although employers cannot protect their employees from stress that arises outside of work, they can and should be committed to reducing stress levels at work.
It is true that an understanding employer can make all the difference in supporting our needs as people to staying healthy, being productive and successful at work, but it is also important to remember that we can take an active approach to taking control of our circumstances to create better balance in our lives. How? Here is how I do it:
Step 1: Identify what makes you feel good during your non-working hours.
This will be different for everyone depending on their age, family commitments, hobbies etc. I am a young man with a passion for basketball and films. I just got married and will be welcoming my first born child in a few months. Nothing makes me feel better than spending quality time with my wife, watching films together and playing basketball with my friends. For a physically active person like me, sleep is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You can’t perform well is your body and mind are shattered from day-time activity. So, I always make sure I get a good 8hrs sleep.
What makes you feel good?
Step 2: Identify and implement routines
Managing your time can seem difficult at first. Time, or the lack of it, is the number 1 reason why people fail to achieve balance and progress in their lives but it does not have to be so. You might need to alter your current routines a bit but the long-term effect it will have on your life will be worth it.
When I started my current job I used to wake up at 7:30am, get ready and go straight to work. By the time I was back home around 6pm I was too tired to workout. Sometimes I pushed myself to do it but soon I noticed that I was only becoming more tired, I could not sleep well at night and as a result I looked exhausted at work next day. I decided to change my routine and exercise early in the morning before work. This meant waking up 1 hr earlier every morning, which was hard at first but I committed to it and, after a week, I noticed I slept better at night, felt more energised in the morning and I was in a better mood all day. On top of that, once I was home in the evening, I had enough time to cook dinner, watch a film and spend the evening with my wife while allowing my body clock to relax and get ready for a good night sleep
Step 3: Be in the now
Being in the now seems to contradict the way we live today, in very fast pace societies with constant changes in technology and increased working demands. Having said this, full immersion in any activity, work or leisure, is crucial to reducing stress levels and developing joy and fulfilment in life. Whether you are cooking, cycling, talking to your friends in a café or replying to emails at work, learn to enjoy each activity for what it is.
I used to be addicted to my phone and could not stop watching videos or using social media. This meant that I would be watching a video while cooking dinner, putting my health at risk of cuts and burns just because I had become accustomed to having too much stimuli during my waking life. Doing just one thing seemed a waste of time when I could be doing two or three things at once. But, of course, this meant I did neither with full consciousness or care.
Since I started to focus on my health and my work-life balance, I have set a time and duration for my personal use of social media. This helps me appreciate more the time spent communicating with friends and family abroad and it also helps me focus on what matters at each moment. Each of the activities I engage in daily are more meaningful, fulfilling and positive now that I give them (and the people I do them with) my full attention.
I am still a busy person, but following the steps I described helps me manage both my physical and mental health in and out of work. Change is always possible but it will not always come easily or from the outside. If you are unhappy with the way your life feels at the moment, remember that you are not alone. Seek support from friends, family and colleagues to help you identify the changes you can make and help support you along the way.