Tips to improve your work-life balance

Whether you work from home or in the office, technology is allowing people to communicate at all hours of the day. The result: The line between work hours and personal time has been blurred.

In a 2020 survey, nearly half of American workers who shifted to remote work during the pandemic said they were working longer hours. And two-thirds said they were working on weekends.

Though it might be difficult, it is possible to have work-life balance. Here’s where to start.

Key takeaways

  • Work-life balance means equally prioritizing both your work life and your personal life.
  • A variety of factors can contribute to work-life imbalance.
  • You could improve your work-life balance by doing things like setting boundaries, asking for flexibility at work, prioritizing your well-being, and taking time to recharge and relax.
  • A good work-life balance could improve your health and prevent burnout while also boosting your productivity.

What is work-life balance?

Work-life balance refers to how you manage the demands of both your career and personal life.

Your definition of a good work-life balance may vary from another person’s definition. But it typically means you do your job well and also have time for activities outside of work that are meaningful to you. This can be challenging for many. But knowing how to manage your time and productivity level can help you reduce stress and prevent burnout. 

What causes a poor work-life balance?

You may develop a poor work-life balance when one area of your life suddenly gets more demanding. An imbalance can be caused by all kinds of different things. Here are just a few examples:

  • A career change
  • More responsibilities at work
  • More responsibilities at home

When there’s little balance to your life, you may feel exhausted, disconnected or unproductive.

Tips to improve your work-life balance

If you’re ready to maximize your work life and personal life, here are some tips to help you improve your work-life balance.

Set boundaries
Setting boundaries entails figuring out what your priorities are and learning to say “no” when you don’t have time for something. For instance, you can establish your work schedule and let your company know you’re unavailable outside of those hours. Talk with your employer about cutting tasks or delegating them to others. And at home, discuss how each family member will manage their responsibilities.

Ask for a flexible work environment and hours
Flexibility is one of the top benefits workers look for when considering a job offer, according to FlexJobs data. A flexible work environment could mean you have the option of working from home or in the office. Without a commute, you have more time to cook healthy meals and spend time with friends or family members. Your employer might also let you set your own work hours, which allows you to do your job when you feel most productive.

Change your hours at home
If you can’t reduce your work hours, you can still adjust your hours at home to maximize your schedule. Carve out more personal time by getting up earlier, going to bed earlier, and setting aside specific time for friends and family.

Maximize your commute
If you have a commute, you can use the time to either unwind or be productive. For instance, you can check emails during your commute if you’re taking a train. Or, listening to a podcast in the car can help you relax and transition between work and home.

Have a designated work space
Having a designated work space can help you put physical boundaries between work and home, especially if you work remotely. You can, for instance, dress for work and do your work in a separate area that’s quiet, organized, comfortable and welcoming. At the end of the work day, transition back into home life with a quick routine.

Strive for efficiency
Efficiency means you can complete tasks well, without wasting your time and energy. This is important for both home and work. When you’re efficient—whether it’s picking up the kids on time or running an effective meeting—you have time for all your priorities.

Take breaks during your work day
Working all day while you’re at maximum mental capacity can lead to burnout. Instead, aim to work in longer bursts and take short breaks throughout the day. For example, you might decide to work for one hour straight without checking emails or doing other tasks. Then take a break to clear your mind and stretch your legs.

Make health a priority
Self-care is an important part of staying healthy and lowering your stress levels. You can prioritize your health by building simple habits into your day. For instance, you might plan healthy meals, take a walk every morning or meditate regularly. Emotional well-being is important too. Scheduling social outings or video chats with friends and family members can help you relax outside of work.

Recharge and relax
It’s important to have activities outside of work, whether it’s a sport, hobby or social time with other people. Scheduling these activities can help ensure you prioritize them. And if you’re able to avoid accepting tasks purely out of obligation, you’ll have more time for activities that are meaningful to you.

Plan a vacation
Working from home or responding to work emails outside of work hours can make you feel like you’re never off the clock. This can lead to stress and poor job performance. Going on a vacation is one way to separate your work life from home life, whether it’s just for a few days or for longer. Even simply planning the trip or staycation can give you a sense of anticipation and purpose.

Benefits of a good work-life balance

Having work-life balance can:

  • Improve your health. Overwork may lead to fatigue, poor health and negative impacts on relationships, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • Prevent burnout. Mental exhaustion can occur when you’re working too much, you lack control at home or on the job, or your job doesn’t align with your values. 
  • Boost productivity. Working more than 50 hours a week can actually hurt your productivity and effectiveness, according to research from Stanford University.

Work-life balance in a nutshell

Creating work-life balance is an ongoing process, and it might look different for everyone.

You might start by doing things like setting boundaries, asking for flexibility at work, prioritizing your well-being, and taking time to recharge and relax. Doing so could help you improve your health and prevent burnout while also boosting your productivity.

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