Work-life balance has always been an important component of career success and job satisfaction. Yet, as we saw throughout the past year, actually achieving that balance can be a challenge for many people. As we move toward a future with new work models and redefined workspaces, there’s never been a more important time to prioritize our health and the moments that matter most.
Here are four strategies for protecting your personal life, promoting well-being at work, and achieving a better work-life balance.
Pre-pandemic, when the majority of professionals worked on-site or in offices, it was common practice for workers to take breaks throughout the day. Whether it was a coffee break in the shared kitchen, lunch outside the office, or a water cooler conversation with a colleague, short breaks were an expected part of working in an office. When everyone shifted to working from home, however, opportunities for breaks and casual interactions with colleagues all but disappeared. As a result, mental health suffered and more people reported feeling burned out.
That’s why, no matter where you’re working from these days, it’s important to take time to intentionally disconnect from work. One way to do this is by prioritizing mental health breaks throughout the day. Even if you aren’t in the office, you could still take a mid-morning coffee break. Or maybe you go for a walk or step away from your desk at lunch instead of eating while working. Similarly, closing your computer at the end of the day and only checking email if required can help create separation between your work and personal life.
In order to achieve a better work-life balance, it’s important to distinguish between work time and personal time as much as possible. When work consistently carries over to personal time and vice versa, work-life balance gets compromised. In order to protect your time, it’s a good idea to stick to a consistent schedule. Try to start and end your workday at the same time and communicate these times to colleagues so they know when they’ll be able to reach you and when they won’t. This can be especially helpful for those still working remotely or in hybrid work models who don’t see colleagues on a regular basis. Establishing clear on and off hours allows everyone to work and communicate more effectively.
You can also establish boundaries between work and life by adding important personal events to your calendar like you would work meetings. That vet appointment for your dog? Block off the time on your calendar and let co-workers know you’ll be away for a bit. Do you always work through lunch and wish you didn’t? Add a lunch break into your daily schedule. The calendar notification will remind you to step away from your desk while also letting others know when you’ll be back on the clock.
This can be a tough one for many of us, but learning when to say “no” is key to work-life balance and happiness. If you’re constantly taking on more than you can manage, you’ll have a hard time stepping away from work and maintaining work-life boundaries. Instead, whenever you get asked to help with a project or take on an additional assignment, first pause and evaluate your current to-do list. What are the priorities and deadlines you’re currently working on? If you’re being asked or required to take on extra work, talk with your manager or team and consider how you might delegate tasks or collaborate with colleagues to get projects done on time.
The same idea applies to your personal life. If you take on more than you can manage, additional stress at home is likely to impact your work. Instead of always saying “yes”, take a little time to think through what you might be giving up. The reality is we all have a limited amount of time in the day. So, what matters most to you and how do you want to spend that time? Your answer to that question will help you stay on track in your work and personal life.
A healthy lifestyle is critical to achieving work-life balance and coping with any stress and anxiety that might arise. Eating healthy, fresh foods, getting out and being active, and prioritizing sleep and rest are all ways to take care of your physical and mental health. You can also take care of yourself by setting aside time for activities or hobbies that you enjoy. It could be a yoga class, reading a book, gardening, or cooking, whatever allows you to relax and be healthy will improve your work-life balance in the long-run.
Another important way to take care of yourself is to ensure you have a support system. That might be a co-worker you can count on to take care of work tasks when challenges come up at home, or family and friends who encourage you when projects or big deadlines come up at work. Ultimately, building a support system will help you achieve a better work-life balance and find success and happiness at home and at work.