The stats are in, and it’s not pretty. When it comes to work/life balance, we Aussies are failing. Miserably.
If lunch is usually a 10-minute affair at your desk, if you’re scrolling through work emails long after you’ve clocked off, and the idea of leaving on time is simply laughable, sadly you’re part of the majority of Aussies who are feeling overstretched at work.
According to a paper by The Australian Institute, Australia’s poor work/life balance is robbing us of approximately $128 billion in unpaid overtime each year! Unsurprisingly, two-thirds of Aussies feel that their current work hours are negatively affecting their health, wellbeing and relationships.
We’re spending far too much time chasing deadlines, finishing overdue projects and replying to urgent emails when we could be sitting down to a family meal, catching up with friends and having weekends filled with sleep-ins and lazy Sunday brunches.
Yes there are bills to pay, mouths to feed and ambitions to satisfy; but should it ever be at the expense of your health, or time spent with loved ones?
In fact, ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’ is one of the top 5 regrets that palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware heard when caring for patients in the final stages of their life. Ware, who has turned her experiences into the book The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, found that this was the second most common regret, particularly among men.
So if you’re a workaholic, what can you do to reclaim your spare time? We give you 7 realistic strategies to help you get your work/life balance in check:
1. Stop wearing busyness as a badge of honour
We’re all guilty of this one. It seems that we love being busy, and we can’t resist a good humblebrag about it! Somewhere down the line, busyness has become synonymous with success and status.
Just think about it. How often have you heard a colleague brag about their 16-hour workday, or boast about how they can get by on just 4 hours of sleep? Don’t be that person.
Professor Ann Burnett, a busyness expert, told the Washington Post there’s a perception that, ‘If you’re busy, you’re important. You’re leading a full and worthy life.’
This attitude stigmatises leisure time, making it tantamount to weakness. It encourages us to cram in more, when what we really need to do is less. Feeling guilty about not being busy just isn’t healthy, so go ahead and make time to do absolutely nothing once in a while – and enjoy it!
2. Leave the office on time, period.
It’s a lot easier said than done, but leaving the office on time shouldn’t be ‘a treat’ – it should be the norm, and it should be non-negotiable!
If you make it a priority, and schedule your day right, clocking off on time is an extremely reasonable goal. Just don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you should just try to get this project done, or finish off that task. If you keep thinking this way, you’ll never leave the office! There will always be more work to do.
So knock off on time and enjoy your work-free evening doing the things you love.
3. Take your lunch break and get out of the office
Make time to take your full lunch break, and use it as an excuse to walk away from your desk. Better still, use this time to recharge and get some fresh air by taking a brisk walk!
Too many of us are guilty of eating our lunch at our desks, and our brains and bodies are all the poorer for it. Lunch breaks are an important part of the day where you get to take a breather, mentally refocus and head back to work feeling re-energised. This is good for you – but even better for your employer in the form of increased productivity.
4. Give yourself permission to disconnect
Put the smartphone down! Unless you’re a business owner or senior manager, there really isn’t any need to monitor work emails outside of business hours.
Staying on top of your emails outside work hours creates a vicious cycle where people expect you to respond to emails at all hours. Remember that it’s okay to disconnect, and communicate to your employer that you won’t be available after a certain time. Switch off your work phone, or remove your work account from your mobile. If you absolutely cannot miss a particularly urgent email, try setting up your account to only forward priority emails to you.
Once you do this, you’ll see a reduction in your stress levels, and you’ll be able to spend more quality time with your loved ones.
5. Don’t be afraid to say no
When you’re trying to get ahead and want to impress your employer, it can be hard to say no to things. For too long we’ve been conditioned to think of ‘no’ as a bad word, but the reality is that there are only so many hours in the working day.
Being able to work from home once or twice a week, having the time to care for an elderly parent or the ability to pick up your kids after school is possible if you openly discuss this with your manager.
As the future of the workforce moves away from ‘presenteeism’ and towards flexibility and productivity, more and more businesses are seeing the upside of giving employees the freedom to dictate their own hours.
7. Schedule in time for the things that really matter
It might seem ludicrous to ‘book in time’ with your loved ones for something as simple as a cup of coffee, date night or a family get-together; but we book dentist, doctor and hair appointments far in advance all the time. So, why shouldn’t our loved ones deserve the same level of commitment?
Scheduling in time with your significant other, family or friends is a sure-fire way to always make time for the people that you love.
Having a good work/life balance can do absolute wonders for your wellbeing, productivity, social life and relationships! Even the smallest changes like taking a full lunch break rather than working through can make all the difference.
So go on, make a change – your career will thank you for it!
Know a workaholic? Remind them to take it easy and help them find that balance by sharing this post with them!
Viv is a writer who enjoys researching and writing about creativity, how the human mind works, and neuro processes. She values creativity above all else and admires people who pursue their career dreams, no matter the sacrifice. In her spare time, she binges on HBO shows and epic fantasy novels.