How Do You Achieve Work Life Balance?

Whether you think it a myth or you have managed to make this work in your life, everyone has to create their own work-life balance. Stepping up in the corporate ladder will often involve further responsibilities, and the pressures and commitments outside of work will sometimes mean that decisions/sacrifices need to be made to find balance.

But is there ever really a balance? Or can it sometimes feel like an ultimatum?

In a generation that is so reliant on technology, do you often find that you are checking your emails outside of work, making late night phone calls and perhaps having trouble sleeping when you are focusing on a deadline?

Let’s face it; the result of overworking can often bring more negative outcomes than good in terms of personal life and health. Increased stress and anxiety on a regular basis, not allocating enough time for meal/coffee breaks and limiting face to face contact with loved ones will often leave you feeling like you have achieved less instead of more.

This of course depends on the individual and the field of work, but I can personally say that I can relate to this topic all too well.

Around December last year I made a complete career change. For the past six years leading up to this change, I was building a name for myself in events and hospitality, working around the clock to meet the demands of the job, which in turn cost me in terms of a personal life. Time for my friends and family would often need to be an appointment in the calendar, and while I gained so much in terms of experience and growth, and the industry provided many opportunities and perks, there came a time for me to make an independent choice to either continue this lifestyle or make a change.

And what a change it has been! Not only did I realise that one could do ‘normal’ hours, but I can now make more use of my free time in ways that I never had the opportunity to before. Not to mention exploring a new industry entirely and branching out!

If you currently find that your scale is leaning more towards to the work component over life, how can you balance it in your life?

Jeff Stibel of Harvard Business Review outlines seven ways that you can create more balance and be happier at work:

  1. Smile –  Turns out, smiling is directly linked to happiness. It may have started as a correlation but, over time, the brain linked the two. Don’t believe me? Try this: smile (a nice big smile) and attempt to think of something negative. Either you will stop smiling or you won’t be able to hold the negative thought.
  2. Stop worrying – Worrying happens to be one of humanity’s best traits. It is the underlying emotion behind foresight, planning, and forecasting. We worry because some future event is uncertain and that feeling is a cue for us to start thinking about how to address it. The problem is, we worry too much about things that are out of our control (like the economy, stupid). Stop sweating the small stuff!
  3. Take a break – Overworking people to exhaustion is a horrible way to extract knowledge from people. Taking a break provides an opportunity to reflect and often it is during such times when the best ideas, our deepest insights, emerge.
  4. Do things differently – Part of the problem at work for many people is boredom. We are stuck in a rut where we come in and do the same thing over and over and over again. Get your enthusiasm back by doing things differently.
  5. Stop managing and start leading – If you’re in management, you need to find ways to motivate and stimulate your employees. How? Stretch their minds. Empower your team by giving them more responsibility, more decision-making power, more autonomy. Equally important: be inclusive. Explain what is happening in the company as a whole and give your employees a broader perspective on how their jobs influence the overall business.
  6. Delegate – Being controlling is bad for business, not to mention bad for your physical and mental health. The best leaders always look for people better, smarter, and more capable than themselves.
  7. Have fun – Here is some tough advice: If you don’t like what you are doing, stop doing it. Life is too short to not have fun. I love what I do and when I stop loving it, I do something else. Even in this economy, you will be in high demand if you are good at what you do — and can do it with a smile on your face.

Not sure of where to start when it comes to work-life balance for your employees? Forbes outlines five easy steps to A+ work-life balance:

  1. Talk the talk – Put work-life balance in your Core Values, post it prominently and create opportunities to talk about what that means with your employees.
  2. Walk the walk – You have to model it. Avoid email on weekends and at night. Take vacations. Give employees rewards of experiences (dinner for two, an activity for kids) that show you care about their life outside the office.
  3. Ask! – How many employers have actually asked their employees what they would want to have a satisfactory work-life balance? It might not be as long a list as you think. Make time to find out what balance looks like for each employee and work together to make it happen.
  4. Get out of the 9-7 box – Give employees more flexible schedules! If you think they will take advantage then they are probably not employees you should trust to begin with. Judge on performance not hours of tushes in seats.
  5. Celebrate families – Let your employees know their kids and families are your concern and interest too.

I think my colleague here at Challenge Consulting summed up this topic best, as a result of the combination of Australia’s low birth rate, low unemployment rates and ageing population, Australia is going to have to really embrace flexibility in the workforce. In my opinion work/life balance is still very much paid “lip service” and very few organisations truly embrace the concept. I think the simple adage of “work to live, not live to work” sums it up. We all just need to learn to live it.

How do you learn to live it? How have you created a work-life balance in your life?