Once upon a time the boundaries between work and home were fairly clear. Today, however, work is likely to invade your personal life — and maintaining work-life balance is no simple task.
This might be especially true if you work long hours. Technology that enables constant connection can allow work to bleed into your time at home. Working from home also can blur professional and personal boundaries.
Still, work-life balance is possible. Consider your relationship to work and ways to strike a healthier balance.
Married to your work? Consider the cost
If you're spending most of your time working, your work and your home life might be negatively affected. Consider the consequences of poor work-life balance:
- Fatigue. When you're tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly might suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
- Poor health. Stress can worsen symptoms related to many medical conditions and put you at risk of substance misuse.
- Lost time with friends and loved ones. If you're working too much, you might miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you feeling left out and might harm your relationships.
Strike a better work-life balance
As long as you're working, juggling the demands of career and personal life will probably be an ongoing challenge. But by setting limits and looking after yourself, you can achieve the work-life balance that's best for you.
If you don't set limits, work can leave you with no time for the relationships and activities you enjoy. Consider these strategies:
- Manage your time. Give yourself enough time to get things done. Don't overschedule yourself.
- Learn to say "no." Evaluate your priorities at work and at home and try to shorten your to-do list. Cut or delegate activities you don't enjoy or can't handle — or share your concerns and possible solutions with your employer or others. When you quit accepting tasks out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you'll have more time for activities that are meaningful to you.
- Detach from work. Working from home or frequently using technology to connect to work when you're at home can cause you to feel like you're always on the job. This can lead to chronic stress. Seek guidance from your manager about expectations for when you can disconnect. If you work from home, dress for work and have a quiet dedicated workspace, if possible. When you're done working each day, detach and transition to home life by changing your outfit, taking a drive or walk, or doing an activity with your kids.
- Consider your options. Ask your employer about flex hours, a compressed workweek, job sharing or other scheduling flexibility. The more control you have over your hours, the less stressed you're likely to be.
Caring for yourself
A healthy lifestyle is essential to coping with stress and to achieving work-life balance. Eat well, include physical activity in your daily routine and get enough sleep. In addition, aim to:
- Relax. Regularly set aside time for activities that you enjoy, such as practicing yoga, gardening or reading. Hobbies can help you relax, take your mind off of work and recharge. Better yet, discover activities you can do with your partner, family or friends — such as hiking, dancing or taking cooking classes.
- Volunteer. Research shows that volunteering to help others can improve your connections with others, as well as lead to better life satisfaction and lower psychological distress.
- Develop a support system. At work, join forces with co-workers who can cover for you — and vice versa — when family conflicts arise. At home, enlist trusted friends and loved ones to pitch in with child care or household responsibilities when you need to work late.
Know when to seek professional help
If your life feels too chaotic to manage and you're spinning your wheels worrying about it, talk to a mental health provider. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of available services.
Creating work-life balance is a continuous process as your family, interests and work life change. Periodically examine your priorities — and make changes, if necessary — to make sure you're keeping on track.