The term ‘work life balance’ is one we’ve all heard before, but how many of us really ever give much thought to the way we balance out our work commitments with the rest of our lives? For many, the pressure to get through workloads can lead them to battle through work, however long it takes, rather than giving thought to whether the workload and timescales are realistic, and whether they are putting themselves under too much pressure. After all, our work needs to get done!
A precondition, of course, for developing a work/life balance is being in work in the first place. Whilst work may cause stress to some, it’s generally accepted that being unemployed for extended periods is detrimental to a person’s wellbeing, so throwing in the work towel if it all becomes too much probably isn’t the best way to go. It’s a question of working out what we derive in terms of pleasure, self-esteem or satisfaction from particular elements of our lives, and ensuring that there’s a workable balance between these various parts.
Many organisations are increasingly embracing the concept of flexible working in order to make it easier for workers to fit their work in around their home commitments. Working from home using smartphones or ‘cloud hosting’ is one way of helping employees to be productive even if they are unable to get to the office for whatever reason. Arguably, there is a debate to be had here concerning whether this ability to work at any time and in any place may indeed cause stress in itself, making it difficult for people to know when to switch off from work – but this is too big a topic to cover in within the scope of this blog.
So, how can employers help workers to manage their work/life balance, without being seen to be overstepping the mark? They could provide information about mental health and wellbeing, including work-related stress, and make sources of further information readily available to staff at all levels. They could also try to provide opportunities for physical activity linked to the workplace (e.g. lunchtime informal team sports) as a way of de-stressing and promoting a more convivial atmosphere in the workplace. And, possibly most importantly, employers should keep lines of communication open with employees so that employers can spot if somebody appears to be stressed, anxious or overworked in order to take steps to lighten their load and address their issues. For information on a whole host of issues relating to health at work, see the Health for Work Adviceline website, blog or knowledge base.