It’s called work-life balance, and it’s the ability to find the right balance between work and private life. Now, if you do not have time, just skip to the last paragraph where you can find our top 5 tips. But if you do have time, please read along as we explain to you why this balance really matters for you.
Work life balance means being satisfied with the work we do and having also time to pursue our personal life goals. Let’s face it: it’s very difficult to achieve a balance if there is no gratification or happiness in doing what you do.
But the road to work life balance is still very long. This is the picture that emerges from many studies. For example, according to a survey by Ranstad, 50% of workers declare that they could not stop working even when on vacation.
Yet the work life balance is one of the key factors most sought after by workers in choosing a company, at least according to the results of the Randstad Employer Brand Research 2020, the representative study of Employer Branding, which involved 185,000 workers from 33 countries.
According to this survey, a good balance between private life and working life is considered vital for 52% of the sample involved in the survey (more than 185.000 people from 33 countries). The Coronavirus emergency and the subsequent lockdown have complicated things more and more. The massive use of remote working, in fact, has not always been adequately regulated, bringing to light several critical issues. Problems that should necessarily be addressed, to avoid that remote work is not smart at all, but only the result of contingent choices, without a long-term strategy.
The Coronavirus emergency and the acceleration of smart working
The pandemic is obviously having a significant impact on the organization of all kinds of work and companies. The need to maintain social distancing to contain the contagion has pushed many employers and freelancers to make massive use of remote working, whenever possible.
In many cases, contingency has forced companies to move their work into the virtual environment without proper regulation. If on the one hand the use of agile work has brought undoubted advantages (logistical and economic), on the other side there have been side effects. Above all, the failure to respect the right to disconnect.
The dense network generated by mobile devices has in many cases made it impossible to distinguish between work and private life. A bad habit that existed before the lockdown, and that the pandemic sped up.
Why work-life balance is important
The search for a balance between private life and work is also and above all a question of health, both physical and mental. Several scientific studies have shown, in fact, how work overloads are associated with a greater risk of suffering from stroke and, in general, with cardiovascular problems.
A study published in 2017 in the European Heart Journal found that prolonged working hours are associated with a higher risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia. Another more recent survey published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology has also reached very similar conclusions, which allegedly identified a correlation between work stress and some heart diseases.
Being able to separate free time and working hours is also essential on a psychic level. Some signs more than others are an alarm on habits that should be changed, carving out the right space outside the professional sphere. Those alarm signs are:
- Feeling always stressed out
- Lack of time to do anything
- Sleep disorders
- Relational difficulties
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low energy levels
How to achieve work-life balance
So far we explained why work-life balance matters, now let’s see some practical tips for your daily life whatever your work is. Here our top 5 pick:
Carve out more time for your social relationships: the key to everything lies in organizing well. Being able to reconcile your social commitments with the time dedicated to work is often a matter of proper planning. Commit to more social activities (as much as the pandemic allows you to do that).
Don’t turn free time into stress: very often free time, like the weekend, turns into a mad rush for all the activities that we could not do during the working week. The main purpose of free time is to enjoy it and relax: try to recharge your batteries more than check your to do list of “free time activities”. You will need your energy for the week to come.
Learn to say "no": being too available can be counterproductive. If you are an employee the risk is to be perceived as a passive collaborator, without decision-making capacity. On the other hand, opposing a reasoned denial to a request can send the message to your boss and colleagues that you are not a simple executor, but that you know how to evaluate tasks and deadlines. If you are a freelancer or an entrepreneur the risk is to over promise to clients, without being able to actually deliver. This will make everybody unhappy eventually.
Create clear boundaries: Avoid taking the computer to bed or answering a business call at the dinner table or during family time. Do not check your work emails before breakfast. Switch off your phone when you are working out or doing a walk in the park. It is important to define precise boundaries with your boss, colleagues, and clients. You need to clarify when you are available to work and when not.
Don't give up on your passions: when time is short, we often make the mistake of putting aside the things we love, perhaps sacrificing cinema, training in the gym, or the theater course. Nothing more wrong. The space reserved for our passions is the one that most allows us to completely disconnect from the routine and recharge our energy. The pandemic already dramatically reduced the space to enjoy many hobbies and passions: let’s try not to axe them off more.