Being successful in your job and career takes a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment. For many however, this often comes at the expense of a healthy work life balance and mental wellbeing, where work and the desire to succeed takes precedent over everything else. The good news though is that with a few small but significant changes, this need not be the case. Here are 8 simple tips which will help to improve your work life balance and mental health.
Learn to say no and don’t over commit
It can be incredibly difficult to say no to colleagues when they ask for your support with tasks and projects at work. There is an overwhelming fear that by saying no you will cause offence and let your colleagues down, which inevitably leads to a vicious cycle of consistently saying yes to each and every request for support, even if it’s at the expense of your own work capacity and mental health. This self-inflicted work overload can often manifest in work invading our leisure time which we can never get back. We have to recondition ourselves to have the courage to say no every now and again, and that starts by recognising that your time is precious and you don’t have unlimited quantities of it at your disposal to lend out.
Set boundaries between work and life
We spend a large proportion of our lives at work, a third on average, and yet for many of us work can still bleed into our personal lives tremendously. Whether it’s checking work emails on your phone at the dinner table, or staying up late to finish that presentation for tomorrow’s meeting, work retains the power to trespass into our personal lives to a unhealthy degree. To improve our work life balance and mental health, we need to set clear and unbreakable boundaries by making into strictly work-free zones the things in our lives that are important to us, such as time spent with family, friends, beloved pets, and travelling. It is equally important to establish boundaries at work, such as when and how you can be contacted, and to communicate these clearly and confidently to your team.
Put your mental health first
This seems like such an obvious consideration that it is not worth stating, but with an increasingly demanding work culture that feels perpetually busy and non-stop, it is our mental health that is usually the first to suffer the consequences. Depression, anxiety, irritability, general feelings of unhappiness, and a lack of time to dedicate to other aspects of life outside of work such as personal development are just some of the pernicious ways that a poor work-life balance can manifest itself. To improve your work life balance and mental health, relieve the pressure off yourself by setting realistic and attainable goals at work that can be achieved in small and manageable stages. Take regular breaks to maintain your focus, alertness, and to manage frustration. Don’t feel afraid or ashamed to reach out to your work colleagues for support and guidance when things get too much. But most importantly, if work is really having a negative effect on your mental and physical health, it might be an indication that you should consider changing your whole career.
Make the case for flexible working
Thanks to the internet and modern mobile and communication technology, more people than ever before have the ability and the opportunity to work flexibly, and it does seem that some of the better and more progressive companies, such as Adobe and IBM, are starting to see the value of flexible working to both their employees and their company objectives. It improves workplace retention, morale, and ultimately work life balance and mental health. It is worth recognising however that most people don’t have this luxury, instead being confined to the 9-5 rat race with no room for manoeuvre, but I would absolutely encourage these people to approach their employers with confidence and make a business case for flexible working. As long as an employer can balance flexible working with the needs of the company, it should be a win-win situation for everyone.
Don’t be afraid to delegate
If it feels like you are doing the work of your whole department, and every other department for that matter, and you are overwhelmed with the sheer number of tasks and projects that are landing on your desk and in your inbox, the chances are that you are either not delegating effectively, or perhaps you are not delegating at all. This is often the result of two things, wanting control over everything and not placing your full trust in your team. By learning to let go, trusting your teammates, and playing to their strengths, you will begin to discover time you thought you never had and you will begin to tip the work life balance back in your favour.
Set aside time for your passions
Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.Mark Twain
The ideal scenario of doing a job that you love and enjoy, as expressed here by Mark Twain, is something that is as far from reality as possible for the vast majority of people, including me, although that’s not to say that we shouldn’t aim for this goal. Outside of work though, we all have hobbies and passions that we love and which make us truly happy, writing and making videos are two of mine. Ensure that you dedicate as much time to your hobbies and passions as possible and plan them into your future so that you have things to look forward to. You will then see the positive payback of a healthy work life balance.
Exercise and join a sports club
Regular exercise and being a part of a sports club can provide a multitude of benefits that have a significant impact on the way that you approach your workload and a stressful and fast-paced work environment. Exercise has the dual benefit of improving your mental and physical health, both of which are important ingredients of a healthy work life balance. Being a part of a team in a sports club will help increase your confidence and self-esteem dramatically, which will in turn give you the confidence boost needed to take the additional measures we have talked about to improve your work life balance and mental health, such as learning to say no, delegating effectively, and setting boundaries between work and life.
Ask for help and support if you need it
If things are getting too much at work and you cannot cope with the stress and anxiety of it all, never be afraid or ashamed to turn to your work colleagues for help and support. The likelihood is that they will know exactly how you are feeling as they will have inevitably been through the same.