|I’ve learned that you can’t have everything and do everything at the same time. Oprah Winfrey|
Welcome to the Work-Life Balance free guide. Work- life balance is essential to combat stress, ensuring both individual and company success. The stress associated with unbalanced lifestyles is costly; it damages productivity and increases individual health risks. Employees who have the tools to balance their professional and personal lives are happier, healthier, and more productive.
In addition to improving performance, many younger employees place a high value on work-life balance. Companies that include work-life balance as part of their culture will be able to better attract qualified candidates.
Benefits of a Healthy Balance
|Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of Balance and Order and Rhythm and Harmony. Thomas Merton|
Understanding the benefits of a healthy balanced life will motivate anyone to make necessary changes. Balance will improve the lives of individual employees as well as the company culture. Learning the basics of work-life balance will also increase employee productivity, health, and morale.
A healthy balance between work and home should be a priority for everyone. Implementing proper work-life balance offers many important benefits. There are, however, many hazards linked with an unbalanced work and home life.
- Poor health: Working long hours without taking time to relax will take its toll on health.
- Unresolved conflict: A lack of balance can create conflicts at work and at home.
- Poor performance: Taking on too much responsibility will lead to exhaustion and cause performance to suffer.
- Financial loss: The impact on health and productivity takes a financial toll on both individual employees and organizations.
- Fulfillment: People who successfully implement work life balance improve their sense of fulfillment at work and at home.
- Health: A healthy work life balance decreases the risk of heart disease and other health problems.
- Greater productivity: Being relaxed and well rested increases productivity and improves work performance.
- Stronger relationships: Personal and professional relationships are strengthened and conflicts are avoided when there is work life balance.
While it may seem counterintuitive, work-life balance can actually increase productivity. While it is true that overtime will initially increase production, the surge only lasts a few weeks before taking a destructive toll on productivity. In fact, working long hours for an extended time period will lead to exhaustion and unhealthy habits that decrease productivity.
Shorter work hours will actually increase productivity in the long-term. Additionally, studies show that people who take short, frequent breaks are more productive than people who only take a single break or work all day. Most people recommend taking a few minutes each hour to regroup.
Ways to increase productivity:
- Take healthy breaks: You should take time to refresh yourself. Try stretching, walking, or meditating throughout the day. This will also improve your health and overall wellbeing.
- Take enjoyable breaks: A recent study by Don J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G Lim of the National University of Singapore discovered that taking a few moments to surf the internet and mentally change gears actually increases productivity. This fun activity increases productivity by nine percent.
- Take time off: Working to the point of burnout is not productive or healthy. Do not lose vacation days, even if you have to spread them out. Studies show that people who take their vacations are much more productive than those who do not.
It is common knowledge that stress is directly linked to different diseases. Numerous surveys have discovered that work is a leading cause of stress related illness and injury, such as stroke, heart disease, and mental breakdowns. A balanced life will improve both physical and mental health.
How to Improve Health
- Awareness: A balanced lifestyle increases personal awareness, allow individuals to identify potential health problems early.
- Lifestyle: A balanced lifestyle automatically improves health. It encourages healthy choices and helps develop the body and the mind.
Work life balance is an effective tool to increase morale and improve company culture. Employees seek out companies that support healthy work life balance. The only factor more important than balance to job seekers is compensation. According to several surveys, work-life balance improves happiness and overall job satisfaction. Additionally, employees are more invested in companies that support their work-life balance. Work- life balance typically translates to employees who work harder and are more productive.
Signs of an Imbalance
|It must be a balance in everything we do, not too much of everything… Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.|
The signs of imbalance are unmistakable. We see people suffering from poor health, burnout, and stress every day. For companies, this increases costs in the form of absenteeism, health costs, and turnover.
If you recognize these signs in your life or your organization, take action immediately and focus on work- life balance.
Imbalance promotes poor health. Over time, this can lead to devastating, and possibly life changing consequences.
Effects on Health:
- Obesity: Not taking the time to exercise or eat well can increase obesity, which is connected to heart disease and numerous other health risks.
- Exhaustion: Sleeping well can add years to a person’s life. Sacrificing sleep for work will have negative effects on health and increase the chances of getting sick.
- Emotional problems: Stress and exhaustion will wreak havoc on emotional well-being. This will affect relationships and personal identity.
More companies are taking an interest in the health and fitness of their employees. It is now in an organization’s best interest to do so. Healthy employees are productive, absent less, and their health care costs less.
Poor health increases employee absenteeism and thus is a costly problem for employers. There are hidden and direct costs that must be paid when an employee is absent from work.
Cost of absenteeism:
- Sick pay: Employees with sick days are still paid, which is a direct cost.
- Loss of productivity: Even with someone to work the position of the sick employee, the employee familiar with the job will be more productive. This is an indirect cost of sick days.
While most people who take time off are legitimately sick, stressed employees will take days off to catch up with personal obligations, and they usually feel justified doing so.
Most people know that overworked employees eventually burnout. Burnout is the physical and psychological response to long-term stress.
Signs of Burnout:
- Loss of interest: Burned-out employees cannot make themselves care about their work, which is the source of their stress.
- Lack of emotion: Emotional responses are abnormal when someone is burned-out.
- Loss of motivation: Former motivators no longer are effective.
- Possible depression: Burnout is closely linked to depression.
Burnout harms companies by increasing turnover. Consider the following:
- When everything is added together, 150 percent of an employee’s annual salary is the cost of turnover.
- This number is 200 to 250 percent for members of management.
Work is the main source of stress for most Americans. Stress’ connection to obesity for workers in sedentary jobs is more significant than diet, according to research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The effects stress on heart health can be deadly.
Signs of Stress:
- Overemotional: People under stress can find it difficult to control their emotions.
- Lethargy: The physiological impact of stress can cause lethargy.
- Restlessness: Stress can make it difficult to focus, causing hyperactivity and restlessness.
- Anxiety: Prolonged stress can cause anxiety disorders.
|Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It is the surprising outcome of letting go. James Arthur Ray|
Employers have the opportunity to improve work-life balance for their employees and increase productivity at the same time. Using the resources that employers have at their disposal to change work conditions may seem counterproductive, but they are effective.
Traditionally, employers set all of the parameters concerning jobs. Keeping all of the control, however, augments stress on employees. Simply offering employees more control over their lives and establishing better work life balance will help alleviate this stress. Studies show that employee control actually increases loyalty and productivity. There are many ways to offer employees control, and we will go over some of them in detail in a later module.
Ways to offer control:
- Flex time
- Job sharing
These are just a few examples of employee control. Anything that empowers an employee to take charge of his or her life offers employee control.
Employees have some of the best ideas on how to improve their jobs and the company as a whole. These ideas, however, are not always communicated. Many employees do not feel that people in management care and most managers do not have the time to sit down with each employee. The best way to hear about new, innovative ideas is to create an employee suggestion program.
- Make it simple: Create a simple process for giving suggestions; complicated rules do not encourage creativity.
- Respond: Let employees know that you have their suggestions and will consider them.
- Thank: Thank each employee who gives a suggestion, even if they are suggestions you do not use.
- Reward: Employees who come up with useful suggestions need to be rewarded.
Given the unavoidable stress of life, most people face times when they need assistance. EAPs provide employees access to counseling and other services. Without the aid of EAP counselors, the effects of stress can spiral out of control. Employee assistance programs give individuals the opportunity to seek help and learn the skills necessary to improve their work life balance.
Typical EAP Topics:
- Personal crisis
- Work stress
EAPs are useful investments because they prevent turnover and reduce absences as the teach strategies for work life balance.
This may seem basic, but rewarding your staff is an effective method for promoting work-life balance. Employees who feel appreciated are more confident, and rewards reinforce the behavior you want to see repeated. Rewards can also provide breaks that reduce stress. Rewards do not have to break the bank. There are simple ways to thank your employees for their service.
- Public acknowledgement of service
- Extra time off
Tips in Time Management
|Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. William Penn|
Most people complain that they do not have enough time. The truth is, however, that most people do not know how to manage time wisely. Time management is crucial to an effective work-life balance. Effectively implementing time management will reduce stress and help bring balance to life in and out of the office.
Many people confuse the urgent with the important. Urgent tasks do need to be done quickly, but that does not make them important. We are often stuck completing urgent tasks at the expense of the important ones. Important tasks are the ones that help us meet goals. Often, urgent tasks, such as fixing the copy machine, are distractions from what is important. Learning the difference between urgent and important will better anyone’s time management skills.
The Urgent/Important Matrix
Managing time requires that people learn to say “no.” This may seem cruel, but it is not possible to meet everyone’s needs. You must learn to say “no” kindly but firmly. Do not allow people to talk you into urgent tasks. You need to stick with a schedule and plan of action. Do not deviate unless it is a true emergency. For example, proofing a colleague’s letter is not an emergency that you must complete at once. Complete your important tasks first.
Flexibility is an important skill. Life cannot be predicted, and inflexible people fall to pieces when change beyond their control comes. Being flexible simply means that you are not resisting the inevitable changes of life. Flexibility is not passivity. It is being able to embrace change. This will reduce stress and improve work life balance. For example, car trouble will throw off your schedule, so do not try to keep up with your tasks that day.
According to the 80 / 20 rule, 80 percent of our success is the result of only 20 percent of our actions. The rule implies that we should place our focus on the 20 percent of activities that are the most successful. This requires that we prioritize goals. When this is done, concentrate on the 20 percent of activities that aggressively move you towards those goals. Give most of your attention to this 20 percent.
In order to effectively manage time and live a balance life, you must be aware of your goals. It is important that you have goals because they provide direction. Working towards a goal will help focus energy and reduce the stress that comes with not having a purpose.
There are three Ps that will help you achieve goals. Approaching your goals incorrectly will only result in failure. The three Ps will motivate you and help keep you from becoming discouraged. When setting goals: you must make sure that they are positive, personal, and present.
- Positive: Goals should be phrased positively, so they help you feel good about yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish. A better alternative might be this: “Enroll in pre-law classes so I can help people with legal problems someday.”
- Personal: Goals must be personal. They must reflect your own dreams and values, not those of friends, family, or the media. When crafting your goal statement, always use the word “I” in the sentence to brand it as your own. When your goals are personal, you’ll be more motivated to succeed and take greater pride in your accomplishments.
- Possible: When setting goals, be sure to consider what’s possible and within your control. Getting into an Ivy League university may be possible if you are earning good grades but unrealistic if you’re struggling. In the latter case, a more reasonable goal might be to attend a university or trade school that offers courses related to your chosen career. You might also pursue volunteer work that would strengthen your college applications.
Goals cannot be achieved if they are impossible. SMART goals make it easier to achieve success because you know that success is within reach.
Aspects of SMART goals:
- Specific: Goals must be specific. An example of a specific goal is: workout 30 minutes a day.
- Measurable: Measurable goals let you know when you are successful. For example, lose 5 pounds is measurable.
- Attainable: All goals, particularly short-term goals, need to be attainable. For example, promoting three times in six months is not attainable.
- Relevant: Goals must be relevant to the situation. A goal to find a mentor is not relevant to someone who is established in his or her field.
- Timely: Goals require specific timeframes. For example, lose 5 pounds this month is both measurable and timely.
Visualization means coming up with a mental picture of a goal and then believing that the goal will happen. Many successful people use visualization techniques. The process of visualization may seem like a waste of time to some, but visualizing a goal helps the mind to view that goal as a tangible possibility rather than some indistinct desire.
- Choose a goal: Visualization must be specific. Choose a single goal to visualize. It is easier to start small.
- Relax: Carve out the time to relax and focus on visualizing the goal.
- Visualize: Picture the goal as achieved in great detail. See it happening in the present.
- Accept: Believe that the goal will come true, and affirm it to yourself. Affirmations are useful tools that help win acceptance.
All goals need to be prioritized, so you know how to focus your energy. In order to do this, you must consider how SMART goals align with your personal vision and values in life. A goal that does not meet personal values is less likely to be reached. Use these criteria to rank SMART goals. It is important that you balance goals within different areas of your life.
- Earn a bonus this quarter. B
- Learn a new language this year. C
- Finish a project early. C
- Complete the schedule. A
- Sleep 8 hours a night. A
|What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence. Samuel Johnson|
The traditional methods of work may increase stress and imbalance in life. Each person is unique, and providing different work options will allow people to choose the method that helps them be their most productive and maintain their balance. While it may not be possible to provide every option, allowing for different work styles will improve company culture and promote balance. Each option comes with its own pros and cons, so examine them carefully before choosing a new way to work.
Given the way we use technology, telecommuting is a popular work option. This allows people to work from home and send their projects in when they are due.
- Cost: Companies can reduce overhead and other costs by allowing employees to work from home.
- Productivity: People who work from home are often more productive.
- Lowers stress: Many employees benefit from losing morning commutes and distracting office mates.
- Personal control: Employees who work from home are able to take responsibility for their own schedules.
- Communication: When all communication is electronic, employees may not communicate as well as they can face-to-face. Additionally, a lack of social interaction can isolate employees and stunt company culture.
- Motivation: People who are not self-driven are not successful need more accountability than telecommuting offers.
- Longer hours: Some people work longer hours when they telecommute because there is no distinction between work and home.
Job sharing is a popular option that allows employees to balance their work and home lives. This technique allows two people to share a job, with each one working part-time hours.
- Better attendance: When people have the time to handle personal matters, they are less likely to miss work.
- Continuity: With two people sharing a job, there is always someone to come in and cover for a sick employee.
- Morale: Employees who are able to find work life balance have better morale and productivity.
- Conflict: People who want to be in control may not enjoy having an equal share their responsibilities. This can cause conflicts between job sharers.
- Inequality: If one employee is more effective than the other, that employee may shoulder too much responsibility.
- More paper work: Employers have to double the paperwork for shared jobs.
Sometimes it is necessary to redesign a position to alleviate stress. This requires analyzing and changing the scope and responsibilities of a position in a way that will motivate employees and improve their work life balance.
- Content: Discover what information leads to problems at work.
- Information: Analyze job information to find inconsistencies.
- Elements: Change the elements of the job.
- Description: Rewrite the job description.
- Responsibilities: Refocus responsibilities based on the description.
Flex time does not alter the number of hours employees work, but it does give them the flexibility to choose when they work. For example, an employee may choose to come at 7:00 am and leave at 4:00 pm to spend time with family.
- Productivity: People are more productive when they know that they will be able to take care of their other obligations.
- Morale: Everyone’s internal clock is different. People are happier when they can work at their optimal times.
- Difficult to manage: Managers may have trouble coordinating meetings when everyone works different hours.
- Miscommunications: It is easy to forget to communicate ideas with people who have already left for the day.
|People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness. John Wanamaker|
Keeping balance when at work is difficult. Outside influences always try to creep in and destroy productivity. Becoming sidetracked, however, simply creates job related stress that further increases the level of imbalance you experience. Fortunately, there are a few useful tips that will help you regain your sense of balance while at work.
Everyone has personal problems that create stress and hinder job performance. If these issues are severe, it may be necessary to take a leave of absence. In most cases, however, there are better strategies to help leave the home stress at home.
- Get up early: Get up early enough to take a few minutes and prepare for a new day. Focus on what is ahead and not the past.
- Take advantage of the commute: View the commute as a chance to enter your “work zone.” That is, mentally gear up for the workday.
- Communicate appropriately: Discuss your problems with a friend or confidant outside of work. Do not vent about home stress to your coworkers.
- Find outlets: Discover useful ways to alleviate stress, such as exercise. This will help keep you focused throughout the workday.
Projects and deadlines can be overwhelming. If you have a large task ahead of you, you might be tempted to procrastinate. This will only create more stress. A better solution is breaking up the task.
- List the steps that are necessary to complete the task.
- Schedule time for each step.
- Complete the easiest step first, and then move on to the next easiest. This will give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Do not look ahead. Focus on the task at hand.
People can avoid stress by simply delegating responsibility. This sounds simple, but many people, particularly those in management, have problems delegating authority. They do not trust others to do the job. There are a few tips that will help anyone feel more confident about delegating.
- Choose tasks to delegate: Do not delegate sensitive or difficult tasks.
- Choose people to help: Find responsible people you trust to handle the tasks for you.
- Give instructions: Make sure that you communicate clear instructions with deadlines.
- Be available: Let people know that they can come to you with questions, but do not hover over them.
Accurate goals decrease stress. This involves estimating the time that it will take to complete something. There are a few steps that will help you set accurate goals.
- Familiarize yourself with the requirements.
- List the actions that need to happen.
- Estimate the time necessary for each action you need to take.
- Estimate the total time necessary for a task.
We should be able to relax at home and unwind after a hard day at work. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Home has stress of its own, and it seems like the stress from work is constantly waiting to spill over into our home lives. To have work life balance, it is important to learn how to effectively manage the stress and obligations at home.
Bringing the stress of work home will ruin your family life. Additionally, not being able to separate from work will destroy your balance, increasing your stress level. Luckily, there are a few strategies that will help keep work separate.
- Stop on the way home: On particularly stressful days, you may want to stop somewhere for a few minutes and decompress.
- Vent in the car or to a friend: Use the daily traffic jam as a chance to express your frustrations to yourself instead of ranting about them to your family.
- Enjoy your family: Do not focus on the downside of family life. Find ways to spend time together that everyone enjoys.
- Find outlets: Discover useful ways to alleviate work stress, such as exercise or meditation. Practicing these will help you focus on the present.
Cell phones have made it nearly impossible to escape the pressures of life. Now there is always a way for someone to reach us. Not only are we inundated with phone calls, we have emails and social networks to worry about. There is only one way to fix the problem and alleviate stress: TURN OFF THE PHONE. It is acceptable and healthy to occasionally disconnect. Silencing the phone does not count as disconnecting. It does not matter when you disconnect, just that you do.
“Me time” is essential to a person’s health and well-being. Often, people think that “me time” is a day at the spa or something else extravagant that they cannot afford to do. Actually, “me time” is much simpler. It is anything that you do just for yourself. There is no set expense or time frame that you have to follow when taking “me time.” It can be as simple as taking a walk. The only imperative concerning “me time” is that you actually take it.
Boundaries are important in every aspect of life. Without them, people will constantly pull our attention away from what is important. In order to achieve work life balance, it is necessary to establish boundaries between work and home. This will require you to determine what those boundaries are and communicate them. For example, you may set a boundary that says you do not take calls after 7:00 pm. Each person’s boundaries will be different, so think about what works for you.
Once you set your boundaries and communicate them, you need to maintain them. People naturally push boundaries, and they will test you. You need to stay strong. For example, let a call go to voicemail and only return it if the matter is truly an emergency that cannot wait. Odds are that it is not. After some time, other people will learn to respect your boundaries.
|Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are . Chinese Proverb|
It is impossible to experience work life balance without stress management. Stress is unavoidable. If we do not handle it well it can cause lasting physical and psychological damage. On the other hand, managing stress can combat its negative effects. Fortunately, stress management is not too complicated; anyone can learn how to manage stress.
Everyone knows that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but it is also a key aspect to managing stress. Exercise affects people mentally as well as physically. It produces endorphins that will improve your mood and prevent depression. In order to reap the benefits of exercise, however, you must be consistent with it.
Tips for Success:
- Choose an exercise you enjoy: You will not repeat an activity that you hate doing.
- Start slowly: If you over do it, you will simply become tired and discouraged.
- Schedule it: Exercise must be a priority or you will never get to it.
Diet has a strong impact on our emotions and the way that we handle stress. Eating well is an important factor in stress management. Unfortunately, our bodies crave fatty, salty foods in times of stress. Rather than giving in to fast food cravings, focus on getting healthy.
- Avoid sugar and caffeine: Their highs may give you more energy, but once you crash, you are left more exhausted than before.
- Focus on nutrition: Be sure to include whole grains, lean protein, and leafy green in your diet.
- Eat frequently: Increase your focus by eating small healthy snacks throughout the day. This will balance blood sugar and increase energy.
Many people are sleep deprived. Experts recommend sleeping between seven and nine hours a night. Sleep deprivation increases stress, weakens the immune system, and raises the risk of having an accident. Given the important role that sleeps plays in physical and mental health, it only makes sense to do everything in your power to improve sleep.
Ways to Improve Sleep
- Avoid electronics before bed: Studies show that the light of the television, phone, or computer may make falling asleep difficult.
- Relax: Unwind with a relaxing routine before bed.
- Exercise: Exercise will make it easier to fall asleep.
- Have a bedtime: A regular bedtime will train your body’s internal clock and help you fall asleep.
We are not always aware of how much stress is affecting our lives. It is possible to believe that you are effectively managing your stress when, in reality, stress is managing you. This is why it is important to step back and assess your stress level. The results of the assessment will reveal any changes that you need to make in order to improve your stress management. You can use the results of the assessment to make the necessary changes to your diet, exercise, and sleep routines.
Working in a Home Office
|I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. Robert A. Heinlein|
Working from home has its advantages and disadvantages. Working in a home office and maintaining work-life balance requires preparation and regular evaluation of your work practices. If you are not careful, your home office can take over your life. By following a few guidelines, you can avoid burnout as you take advantage of working at home.
It is important to set up the home office properly in the beginning. A poor work environment will only harm productivity. So, make sure that you are comfortable and have all of the tools that you need to do your job well.
The Set Up:
- Location: Choose a separate room or a location that is out of the way. This will help prevent distractions and create a professional work environment. You also need to make sure that it is well lit.
- Equipment: Make sure that your equipment is functional and that you have everything you need.
- Clear out the office: Remove items from the office that are not work related. It is not a storage shed.
- Organize: Organize supplies so that they are accessible, easy to use, and functional.
- Make it a workspace: Limit the office use for work. It is not a play area.
It is difficult to establish boundaries in a home office; people do not view a home the same way they see the work office. Because you do not have company policies to prevent distractions, you need to create your own boundaries. You can base these boundaries on the rules and boundaries of your old workplace. For example, do not take personal calls while you are working. Just like other boundaries, expect people to challenge them. You must stick to your boundaries, however, in order to be effective at your job and keep your work life in balance.
It is easy to become distracted while working from home. There is no one to supervise, and your family can easily forget that you are working. Fortunately, a few safeguards will help you avoid distractions.
- Limit access: Ask your family to stay out of the office while you are working. Family, children especially, can be very distracting.
- Use a timer: Schedule breaks for activities like social networking. Do not constantly surf the internet.
- Turn off the television: Even if you need a television for work, it does not have to be on all the time. Turn it off to avoid distractions.
- Set aside time to talk on the phone: You cannot allow yourself to be distracted by every phone call.
Working from home gives you the chance to create your own schedule, but you do need to create it. If not, you will have trouble accomplishing tasks on time. Most people find a schedule that sets tasks for each hour helpful, but you may use any format or time block you like.
- 8:00 am – Breakfast
- 8:30 am – Return emails
- 9:00 am – Call clients
- 10:00 am – Research
No matter how you create your schedule, you must stick with it. It is too easy ignoring your schedule when no one is monitoring your performance.