How to Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance

When you’re hungry for success, be it you want to excel at a new job, land an amazing promotion, or grow your own business by which you are self-employed, you feel compelled to throw yourself at your work. But this becomes a problem, faced by many professionals, when this consequently infringes on the time that should be dedicated to your personal life.

Without a healthy work-life balance, you run the risk of burning out. In turn you lose productivity at work, and outside the office your personal life starts to suffer. To understand the importance of work-life balance, look no further than the results of a survey undertaken by the Mental Health Foundation.

They found that:

  • One third of respondents feel unhappy or very unhappy about the time they devote to work.

  • More than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work, which may increase their vulnerability to mental health problems.

  • When working long hours, more than a quarter of employees feel depressed (27%), one third feel anxious (34%) and more than half feel irritable.

  • As a person’s weekly hours increase so do their feelings of unhappiness.

  • Many more women report unhappiness than men (42% of women compared with 29% of men) which is probably a consequence of competing life roles and more pressure to juggle.

  • Nearly two thirds of employees have experienced a negative effect on their personal life, including personal development, physical and mental health problems and poor relationships/ home life.

As the stats show, a healthy work-life balance is vital for maintaining both physical and mental wellbeing. If you need to reclaim your personal life from the clutches of your work life, for the sake of your health and happiness, we’ve outlined some tips to help you achieve this.

#1- Take responsibility

You are responsible for speaking out when work expectations and demands are too much for you to handle- employers are not mind-readers. Employers need to be aware of where the pressures lie in order to address them, so as daunting the conversation may seem, it could be pivotal in improving your career happiness.

#2- Learn to say “NO”

Saying no can seem impossible, especially at work. Do not forget, however, that you are entitled to say “NO” to additional tasks on top of your workload if you are feeling bogged down or stressed out. Don’t justify your actions or give excuses, if you have decided you can’t take something on, say no and be prepared to say it again.

#3- Work smart

With tight prioritisation and strategy, you can learn to complete your to-do list by working ‘smart’ and not ‘long’. Write a rough plan for your hours, allow yourself a certain amount of time per task. Try not to get caught up in less productive activities, such as unstructured meetings that take up a lot of time.

#4- Take proper breaks

Working a full day without taking a proper break is a sure fire way to burn yourself out before the working week is even over. Try and take at least a half an hour lunch, ideally getting away from your desk and into the outside world just for a short while. This gives you a chance to recharge before getting stuck in again.

#5- Create boundaries

Just because your physically accessible all the time doesn’t mean you have to be, as it is unlikely that being available to answer your boss’ phone calls at the dinner table is included in your job description. Set boundaries with your employer so you both understand your availability. Before leaving work, write a list of outstanding tasks to be tackled tomorrow and take the evening for yourself.

How can your organisation can help?

Employers should be proactive in creating a working environment that supports employees and ensures the longevity of the business. Here’s how they can and should help:

  • Encourage a culture of openness about time restraints and workload.

  • Audit working environments to identify elements of practice, policy or culture that be detrimental to work life balance.

  • Allow staff to attend counselling and support services during working hours as they would for other medical appointments.

  • Encourage activities that promote good mental health, for example lunchtime exercise or relaxation classes.

Career success should not come at the expense of your physical health, mental health or overall happiness. If you can feel yourself succumbing to an unhealthy work-life balance, hopefully our tips will help you divide your time more efficiently.


Getting help

If you are struggling with your mental health, remember there is help available.

  • Talk to the Samaritans- available 24/7. Call their free helpline at 116123.

  • Call Rethink Mental Illness- Monday- Friday 10pm-2pm on 0300 5000 927 (calls are charged at your local rate).

  • Call Mind- Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 or Mind Legal Advice service on 0300 466 6463 (UK landline calls are charged at local rates, and charges from mobile phones will vary considerably).

  • Talk to your GP or tell someone you trust.