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How many of you have a hard time leaving “work” at work? Do you carry the stress of your job home? Has work impacted your relationships, hobbies, or personal life? If you answered yes to any of those questions, this could mean that you have some struggles with managing your work-life balance.
What is Work-Life Balance?
What is work-life balance? Work-life balance is the amount of time one spends doing work and on their own life. Some of this time is within our control such as what we do in our free time and some of the time is not such as obligations to our job.
In a perfect world, one could spend more time doing things they enjoy and spend less time working. However, life circumstances may prevent that from happening. If you come from a background where your parents had to work two jobs to make ends meet, your parents likely did not manage a healthy work-life balance. The same thing goes for those parents who are very wealthy due to one or both parents being a “workaholic” and spending every waking moment working. This can also lead to an unhealthy work-life balance.
Why Is It Important to Have a Healthy Balance?
Having a healthy balance between work and play is critical for a number of reasons. The reasons I believe it is important for this are the following:
The first reason why we need to maintain this balance is for our own mental health. From personal experience, I have gotten to the point where I was taking work home with me everyday back at the beginning of my career in education. I couldn’t leave the stress of the job at work and it was taking a toll on me mentally. I can say that I started to become more negative and that it was hard for me to stay motivated with wanting to spend time with loved ones and friends. When this happens, something has to change before you spiral into any deeper mental health issues.
Another reason it is important to manage a healthy work-life balance is to maintain the relationships you have in your personal life. The personal relationships with your children, family, and friends are too important to give up for a job. When you are feeling down and out, who is going to be there and have your back? If you need support in any kind of way, those people will be there for you. Completely neglecting those relationships for a job can cause resentment with your loved ones and friends. It will likely cause you to feel negative and can lead to feelings of loneliness and despair.
Working to Live
Lastly, I suggest the importance of maintaining a work-life balance from a motto I have learned while spending time in Spain. In Europe, many people tend to live by a motto of working to live. This means their jobs provide them a means to live a fulfilled life. They are often able to take time off work to go on vacation, participate in activities that provide meaning, and spend time with their families. I was shocked to hear how 5 weeks of vacation was standard for a lot of companies in Europe.
In our culture in the United States, asking for time off is considered lazy and an inconvenience to the company. People are often scared to ask for the time off even when it is needed. We live by a motto of “living to work” which is the opposite of what I found in Europe.
Personally, I have worked jobs that give 1 week of vacation after a year on the job. I had to be very careful of what I wanted to do with that paid time off since I knew it was not a lot at all.
With that said, research has shown that people who are given more paid time off are more likely to have an increase in productivity, and have better mental health. My suggestion is to challenge the notion that you can’t take time off of work. Don’t be afraid to state that you want paid time off to take care of your health or vacation. That is time that you have earned and we should not feel guilty exercising our right to it.
Ways of Achieving a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Here are some ways that you can achieve this balance. Some of these tips will take more effort than others but I believe that it is important to incorporate them into your life.
Spend Time With Your Loved Ones
This one should be self-explanatory. Spending time with our loved ones helps us maintain a strong bond with them. You feel great being able to connect and have a good time with those that care about you. Likewise, your family and friends will appreciate the effort that you make by placing them as a priority in your life.
I have talked about the importance of self-care here. If you have been reading along with this blog, you will notice a recurring theme of the discussion of self-care. Self-care is important in maintaining a positive image of ourselves. It is up to us to manage our emotional, physical, and mental health since no one else will do it for us.
Leave “Work” at Work
You have to find time to separate yourself from your job so that you can focus on yourself. I am not suggesting that you cannot work from home here and there if you have a deadline to meet. What I am suggesting is that it is not healthy to work our regular shift and work multiple days a week for hours on end outside of the work place. It is also not healthy to carry the stress of work home with you to the point that is all you think about.
For myself, I disconnect myself from work through a couple of strategies. I no longer have my work e-mail connected on my phone. One of the reasons is the fact that it lowers risk of a lawsuit due to a breach of confidentiality but I also want to disconnect from work. I hardly check my work e-mail while I am away from work. I also choose to live in a different area and commute to work due to my role in my building. Many people will see me as my “job title” outside of school and I’d rather separate myself from that pressure and live away from my job.
Finding a Sense of Adventure
Surprised to see this on my list of suggestions? From my perspective, how can we enjoy life if we aren’t finding fun ways to challenge ourselves. This can be done in a number of ways. Some people are thrill seekers and enjoy activities that will give them a “rush” such as skydiving or ziplining. Others might like to hunt. Maybe you’d like to connect with your heritage through traveling and learning the language of your motherland.
For myself, I picked up a new sport and I am currently learning how to play hockey. My wife really enjoys painting and crafting, trying different techniques that she has learned on YouTube. I believe that this is what makes life exciting and invigorating and everyone should find some type of activity that gives them a sense of adventure.
Finding a New Job/Career
This suggestion should be something to visit after multiple attempts of seeking a healthy work-life balance. Some careers are more demanding than others. If you find yourself unsatisfied in your career area or job and you feel burnt out, maybe you can reconsider your job field. Being miserable due to a job in my opinion is not worth the money or stress that comes along with it. Others may not agree with me and that is okay. I’d rather be happy and maintain a good relationship with my family than be rich and miserable. What good is having the money if you can’t have fun with it?
The jobs we work should be a high priority in our lives since they are a way to provide our means of living. However, it should not be our only priority. We must find ways to create a healthy work-life balance. If we don’t, this can lead to a deterioration of our mental health and lead to burnout.
I have experienced burnout and it is not fun. Fortunately, this happened early in my career before I had a family. I can’t imagine the impact of not having a work-life balance can have on a family. My hope is that someone who reads this understands the importance of maintaining this balance. It can make life very dull if all we do is “live to work”.
What do you all do to manage a good work-life balance? How do you know when you hit that point of burnout? Comment down below and share some tips that you have learned along the way.
Cameron is the creator of Supportive Fathers. He created Supportive Fathers as a way to help explore topics other dads encounter in everyday life. Cameron is very passionate about being a father to 2 year old daughter as well as being the husband possible to his wife. To read more of his story, please click here.