Maintaining a healthy work-life balance: a modern challenge
In our ever-demanding work culture, sometimes we overlook the most important element of our work environment: ourselves. Work-related stress is among the most crucial factors that put pressure on our mental health, and while the signs and symptoms are neglected, its effects on our mental and physical wellbeing, as well as our performance at the workplace, are clear-cut. As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we look at the most significant signs of a disrupted work-life balance, and how the situation can be improved.
Lack of satisfaction with your work – that is, burnout – is the most striking symptom of a work-life imbalance. Pressure, stress and continuous overtime can lead to depression and anxiety and the more we work, the more this overloads our thoughts. An enormous workload can lead to neglect of our personal life at every level, from self-care to relationships, which also makes us vulnerable to mental health issues. An interesting aspect of this problem is that women are more prone to this imbalance as they are still more often judged on how well they combine the professional and private sides of their life.
How can you maintain a healthy work-life balance? First and foremost, you must learn to say no, and don’t brush away the feeling when the workload is more than enough. While one busy day might be inspiring and stimulating, the overwhelming amount of assignments only has negative effects in the long run. It also helps if you prioritise your work, starting with the most immediate task, and not allow yourself to get lost in time-consuming duties. It’s also helpful to take at least one longer proper break from your desk: make the most of your lunch break and leave the office for lunch – even a short walk can help you to reduce stress, switch off your thoughts, and move around a bit; this way, you can pump up your concentration level for the afternoon. If you have to take your work home, be sure that your “home office” is clearly isolated from your personal life, either by simply switching off your laptop or mobile device or by using a desk or even a room that can be physically separated from your living environment. Finally – and most importantly – take care of yourself, be aware of the signs when you have to slow down, do some sport or find a hobby that eases your mind, and keep your personal relationships alive so your loved ones can help you survive the toughest days.
As a manager, the most you can do is to be as open about mental health as you can. You should regularly assess the work environment and performance to see whether there are any factors that negatively influence your employees. You should also be available if your colleagues contact you about their workplace difficulties. There is training to spot stress and poor work-life balance and to give immediate help to your co-worker. While it’s practically impossible to create a stress-free work environment, it’s still possible to promote techniques that encourage stress reduction and a positive atmosphere, e.g. proper lunch breaks, smart prioritisation, or counselling opportunities. Last, but not at all least, self-awareness is important for a manager too, as a stressed-out leader can undermine the ambition and spirit of the employees.
To maintain a proper work-life relationship is a serious challenge that not only influences our work performance but also our private life. Even just providing an open and knowledgeable attitude you can ease some of the work-related stress and anxiety. Nevertheless, if you feel you’re not able to find a way out of your dissatisfaction, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
Written by Zsolt Beke