Everyone wants to do it all: excel professionally while also maintaining a fulfilling personal life. But what exactly is a work-life balance? And how can you achieve it in your own life? Start by understanding what it means for you and why it matters.
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or have been working for years, we have work-life balance insights for you!
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance describes the equilibrium sought between your work life and your personal life. It means having enough time for both work and leisure activities—and that is different for each person.
It’s a way to tackle work responsibilities, without losing time for you. An optimal work-life balance helps maintain physical and mental health, while remaining successful on the career path.
Why a healthy work-life balance is important
Constant work without breaks or personal time can lead to burnout, a situation with a lot of definitions, but we probably all know when we experience it as stress and work blazing out our energy. When you’re operating from a place of exhaustion, it may show up at home and at work for some people. An improved work-life balance will help counteract the likelihood of burnout.
Healthy work-life balance can also help you be more productive at work. When you have time for fun or leisure activities, your mind gets a break from work, and you can come back more refreshed and ready to focus on your job.
Mental Wellbeing and Physical Wellbeing:
Lacking balance between life and work can take a major toll on your health and wellbeing. Chronic stress can even weaken the immune system, cause frequent headaches, raise blood pressure, and even lead to insomnia in some. That same stress can sometimes also increase risk of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and overall strained mental wellbeing.
5 key steps toward improving work-life balance
1: First, understand the concept of work-life balance, and what that will look like for you. It’s different for everyone, but the bottom line is to make enough time for work and life— without sacrificing one for the other.
2: Second, identify your priorities. What are the most important things in your life? Make a to-do list of your top five values. Once you know what’s most important to you, it will be easier to make choices that support those values.
3: Third, set boundaries. How much time and energy you’re willing to invest in work to succeed in your job? You’re the best judge of what you can and can’t manage. Be sure to hold yourself accountable.
4: Fourth, create a plan that clearly outlines what your work-life balance looks like. What do you need to change in order to achieve this ideal balance? Be mindful that your choices may impact others on your team and their ability to do their jobs, so it’s important to think about the bigger picture too.
5: Last, take action! Implement your plan, and make small changes over time until you find the right fit for you. Remember that it’s perfectly okay to make adjustments as time passes, your job changes, and things progress.
Healthy habits for sustaining work-life balance
Finding balance between personal and professional is not a one-time action. It takes a commitment to healthy habits and self-evaluation to continually improve and maintain your work-life balance.
Image: person on vacation
Maintaining boundaries can help create a healthy work-life balance and protect time outside of work. This may mean setting limits on how much time you spend working and setting guidelines about when you are available within your working hours. Does that mean not responding to work emails or taking calls outside of a specified time?
This can be a different challenge for some who work remotely, but research we’ve referenced says it’s vital that you don’t let your work life and personal life intertwine. When working from home, commit to closing your laptop at end of business. If possible, try to keep one space in your home dedicated to remote work so it’s easier to physically—and mentally—separate.
Create a routine
Having a routine can help you manage your time better and ensure that you’re getting the important things done. This might include specific times each day for checking email or time blocking your meetings or scheduling in time for working out or spending time with family and friends.
It may be unexpected, but you can and should schedule time for fun, too. This allows you to build your personal life into your existing schedule and give you something to look forward to outside of work. It can also help create more accountability to honor time-based boundaries.
Take breaks and use PTO
Breaks give the mind a chance to refresh and can help people stay focused when working. It’s easy to get sucked into a project, but you be mindful of taking time to step away and recharge— even if it’s a simple five minute pause.
Similarly, using vacation days or PTO will allow you to step back and relax away from work responsibilities. Studies show this doesn’t have to be week-long time away and, instead, can be as brief as taking a half day to reorient.
Prioritize personal interests
Some people prefer to dedicate some time every day to do something they enjoy—without thinking about work. This could be reading, talking with friends or colleagues, going for a walk, or even taking a nap. Studies show that not taking enough personal time can lead to stress and burnout, negatively impacting wellbeing as well as work performance
Measuring work-life balance
As we mentioned, achieving work-life balance is not a one and done activity. Here are a few signs to keep in mind when assessing how well you—or members of your team—are maintaining ideal work-life balance:
Decreased overall stress
Low stress levels can be an indicator of whether you’re achieving a good work-life balance or not. When you have less chronic stress in your life outside of work, it may mean that you’re successfully compartmentalizing the two.
If you find yourself feeling more productive at work when your personal and professional lives are in balance, then that’s a sign you’re achieving more work-life balance. The time you take for yourself may help you invest more into your role and operate more productively and efficiently.
More time for yourself
Achieving a work-life balance can mean having more time for the things you enjoy outside of work—whether that is spending time with family and friends, taking up a new hobby, or just having more downtime.
Balancing professional and personal goals
Goals can be important in finding fulfillment. Whether it’s running a half marathon, learning a new skill, or cleaning out the garage, our personal goals can give us some of the same satisfaction as our career goals. If you find that your main accomplishments are centered around your job, and personal goals are slipping, it may be time to reassess. When you have work-life balance, you may find you are better able to achieve goals in both—rather than just one or the other.
Maintaining personal relationships
One side effect that some people experience when it comes to poor work-life balance is a feeling that it’s taking a toll on your personal relationships. If you’re able to maintain healthy relationships despite having a busy work schedule, then then you may have struck a good balance.
Using your vacation and sick days
When you have a good work-life balance, you’re able to take time off without stress or guilt. Ideally, you know that you’ve got the support of your team to be away from your workload when you need it and feel comfortable taking a break whether it’s planned or when you’re under the weather. If not, have you spoken to your supervisor about how important your personal wellness, fulfillment, and happiness are to your career success?
Improved physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing
A feeling of wellbeing is a powerful tool in assessing work-life balance, but it can also be a little vague. Here are a few things that experts suggest to look out for:
- Improved sleep and rest: You’re not struggling to reach the suggested amount of sleep, and your sleep patterns are regular.
- You have time for movement and exercise: You feel that you can step away from work and prioritize activities that boost physical and mental health.
- Decreased anxiety: You’re less overwhelmed or discouraged when you think about work, your personal life, or both.
- Increased confidence: You feel like work is more manageable, and that you’re more capable of accomplishing tasks inside and outside of the office.
Creating a healthy work-life balance doesn’t need to be complicated! It just takes some effort and planning to figure out what works best for you and then implement it.
Is it time to make a move?
However, if you still struggle with work-life balance, it might be time to consider switching to a new role or company. If that’s the case—call Insight Global. We’d love to help you find a job at a workplace that better aligns with your work-life balance goals and priorities.