“Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.”
R. Buckminster Fuller

We live in a world full of technology which has resulted in huge benefits to society; from electric cars, saving lives, to contactless payment systems. Amazingly it allows us to communicate with the special people in our lives by text, call and video which is invaluable when working away from home.

As with most good things, there are downsides; one being the blurring of the lines between work and home life.

Work/life balance consistently ranks close to the top in employee surveys, as “balance” continues to be the hot career issue and buzzword for employees of all ages.

In this blog post we want to explore the question, ‘is it possible to achieve work/life balance in todays “blurred” world, and if so, how?’

 

A Few Facts

When I started my first job, I left work for the day and went home to see family and friends. Even when email was first on the scene, it never even occurred to me to check my work emails.

Sadly, times and expectations have changed. We’re living in a NOW culture; we all expect and want reponses immediately. Do we ever truly leave work behind when we leave the office or swtich off the laptop? So how many hours are we currently working in the UK on a weekly basis?
According to a recent survey, the average office worker puts in 35 hours per week. Digging a bit deeper into the data reveals another side to the story:

  • 51% of office workers work 30-40 hours per week
  • 28% of office workers work more than 40 hours a week

Now wait for it; 64% of office workers stay behind after work at least twice a month, and almost half of them stay behind on a weekly basis. The 48-hour week is getting ever closer. Then again some of you may be thinking only 48!

It’s been suggested that the “increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population.”

Let’s go back to my question. Is work/life balance possible?

I firmly believe it’s a resounding YES. For example; the Netherlands has one of the shortest working weeks in the world working an average of 29 hours, followed closely by Denmark and France.
So, how do we create a greater work life balance for ourselves?

 

What Can Governments Do?

With the wealth of information available about the impact to mental and physical health, it’s time for Governments to improve employment laws that influence what employers can do to create healthier working environments for all of us.

 

What Can Employers Do?

There are a variety of options available to employers, and many companies are already taking action on some of these areas as part of their Health and Wellbeing programmes, but what else can we do? Here’s a few ideas;

  • Offer flexible working hours
  • Create increased opportunities for remote working
  • Establish blocks of time that are meeting-free
  • Limit the ability to respond to emails outside certain office hours
  • Encourage and incentivise employees to participate in physical activities as part of a wellbeing programme
  • Bring family to work: this can range from social events to youth leadership academies
  • Be a role model:
    • Lead by example: Employees look to their leaders to know what’s ok. If they see that their manager sent them an email at 9pm, they may feel there’s an expectation that they too are on email in the evening.
    • Take regular breaks and have lunch away from your desk
  • Give employees time off each year to take part in voluntary work
  • Finally, encourage employees to look at their own work/life balance and support them to make changes where appropriate

 

What Can We As Individuals Do?

  • Firstly, be aware of your work/life balance and take steps to address it when it’s
    out of kilter
  • Set yourself boundaries about what you will and won’t do after a given time in the evening
  • Stop checking work email when you’ve finished for the day
  • Switch off your phone so that you allow yourself to relax totally and are not tempted to check email or answer a work call
  • Make time in your weekly schedule for regular exercise
  • Leave your desk at lunchtime and get out in nature; there’s an increasing body of research in this area and proof that being in nature is good for your health and wellbeing
  • Eliminate distractions at work and home so that you can focus on what’s important to you
  • Be aware how much time you spend scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or your favourite apps

Finally, remember we are all individuals and one person’s idea of work/ life balance will differ to another’s. What is important is finding a balance that works for you, your family and your
professional life.

 

Thanks,

Rachel Hewitt-Hall

 

About Excel Communications

Excel Communications has a 30+ year history as a global leadership and communication skills organisation dedicated to exceeding the expectations of clients through the training and development of their business and people.

We have a team of expert trainers delivering programmes across four continents in multiple languages. Isn’t it time you got in touch? Call us now on +44 (0) 1628 488 854.