Once in the not too distant past, work took place outside of the home, during designated hours. With the rise of the Blackberry, our reliance on email, an increase in work done with overseas colleagues and the shift to our 24/7 'online' culture, the question of how to achieve a better work-life balance is a hot topic.
Being continually 'plugged in' has been shown to result in stress, difficulty in sleeping and depression. A study from the University of Gothenburg also found a correlation between stress and always being available on the phone, especially regarding the burden of guilt for not replying to messages.
So how do we truly 'balance' work and life? Here are some suggestions along with some top tips from Occupational Therapist, Josephine Dolan-Duford, on how to take your life in a healthy direction:
1. Create a flexible schedule
Studies have shown that employees who have a degree of flexibility over when, how and where they work are overall more productive and energised in their roles, than those who don't. Think: can your work activities or locations be adjusted? Is it possible for you to delegate tasks to someone else so you have more leisure time? And what about outside of work - are you busy in the evenings with friends, your partner and the gym that you have very little time to relax?
"Say no to things. Do something fun every day that makes you feel good: run, take a yoga class, meditate, learn something new..."
2. Remember to unplug
Our online culture has created the expectation of an immediate response. Do you take your phone to bed? Stop it, now. Our brains need respite, and sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).
3. Make time to relax and recharge
A long holiday may be a luxury, in which case try to take long weekends instead. Breaks from work impacts positively on physical health (work stress has been linked to heart disease); an improvement in family relationships and an increase in productivity on return to the work.
You can also make time to leave the office or workplace for lunch. A study in 2015 found that office workers who took short, frequent breaks during the workday had more stamina and fewer aches and pains when they returned to work.
"Write down your priorities for life, your home life, and for you as an individual: pick the most important to you and focus your attention on them. Seeing it written down allows you to see how unrealistic your expectations on yourself often are."
Alternatively, try mindfulness and meditation. Regular practice of meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety and increase feelings of happiness and creativity / productivity. Mindfulness, a psychological state of awareness, has been linked to an improvement in cognitive processes and in turn, effective strategies through which to regulate emotions.
Whilst the 'right' work-life balance varies from person to person, often just a few small changes can help prevent you from losing your mind, as well as your significant relationships, and move towards a healthier lifestyle.
"Stick to one task at a time. Multi-tasking is overrated and keeps you from being present with each moment. By being present you can pay attention to yourself and your needs, taking better care of yourself and therefore others."