Identifying our work life balance

by | 31 Jul 2023 | Mental Health, Wellbeing

Do you have balance between work and other areas of life in the right place?

How will you know when you have got there?

What will be happening in your world when the balance is right?

What is work-life balance?

We hear the phrase work-life balance a lot yet being clear on what it means and how we achieve it leads us to realise its complexity.  Common wisdom has us believe there is some perfect nirvana where everything fits together neatly in our world.  In my experience this is challenging to achieve!

Getting the right balance between different areas of our life is essential for our overall wellbeing.  However, what constitutes balance will be unique to each of us.  It will also vary at different times in our life.  At some points balance may involve greater focus on work and developing our career, at other stages different areas of our life may be higher priority.

If we think about the word balance, then how do we measure it.  Maybe it is about how we view our overall health, or our subjective wellbeing and how happy we feel, or it could be measured by the absence of stress.  There is no perfect measure.

Work life balance is a recent phenomenon linked to changes in the world of work, the society we live in, and the different demands and expectations of our time and resources.  Together they create a more complicated world than experienced by previous generations.

I believe there is a shared responsibility between individuals and organisations to identify and work towards a balance.  From an organisational perspective (and putting my HR hat on) it is important to develop cultures that don’t reward long hours over productivity, that enable flexibility in how people work, and have boundaries around availability.   However, as individuals we can often take greater ownership and make changes gain better balance.

How will I know when I have the balance right?

Conversations about work-life balance usually include some implicit assumptions. 

For example, the idea that areas of our life can be separated.  It is rare for someone to be able to totally disconnect one area of their life from another and it is unrealistic to expect ourself to be able to do so.   There is invariably spill over.   If there are major changes at work, it will affect how we show up at home.  Likewise, if we have something big happening in our personal life it can be hard to switch off when at work.  This spill over can be a positive or negative.  It may energise or deplete us for the other areas of life.

There is also the assumption that more time in the personal domain is positive. What about someone in a very creative role who gets absorbed in what they are doing and lose all track of time, or a role that is intellectually challenging and they enjoy the problem solving.  This  finding ‘flow’ has a positive impact on our psychological wellbeing and undertaking fulfilling work is linked to purpose and meaning which is a pillar of the PERMA model of flourishing. Another element is people may rely on their work for social interaction if they feel alone outside work and we know connecting with others is vital for wellbeing. 

Therefore a lack of balance is not necessarily a negative.  I would suggest it is a negative when we experience a lack of control in being able to adjust the balance to work for us, or if one area of our life is significantly depleting our resources to manage and enjoy our overall life.

How can I improve my work life balance?

  • Review where you are now.
    • Does your balance work for you now?
    • If you had to score the balance out of 10 (in a totally subjective measure!) what would you say?
  • If yes, reflect on what you are doing that influences this and protect the helpful habits to maintain the balance.
  • If no, take an honest look at the factors influencing the imbalance by considering the questions below.

Recalibrating your balance

  • What areas of your life are currently replenishing your resources and make you feel good?
    • What additional habits can you adopt to protect these areas?
    • How can you add to them?
  • What areas of your life are currently depleting your resources?
  • What unhelpful habits do you have that are contributing to this imbalance? Maybe work is busy and you keep checking emails late into the evening which cuts into your personal time.  Do you really need to do this – what will change between then and when you are at work the next day, challenge yourself.
  • Which habits can I change?
  • What specifically will I do – use clear purposeful language and identify what you need to start doing differently.

I am not suggesting that some people won’t have significant things happening in their world that may lead to a temporary imbalance, perhaps caring for someone who is ill, or juggling school holidays with work. 

What I am suggesting is a review of habits to bring about beneficial change. Often we know things we ‘should’ do.  Now is the opportunity to take actions.

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To learn more please contact us on 01202 612 326 or through the options below. We’ll discuss details and how we can help you or your organisation.


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