3 simple ways to improve your work-life balance

Is work overtaking your life? There are some simple steps you can take to get back some balance – and they might even make you more productive.

Weʼre hard workers in Australia. On average 20 to 74 year old male and female full time workers put in 40.6 hours and 36.4 hours per week respectively in 2011–12.1

Hours worked by Australians employed full time
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Despite a decrease in the average hours worked per week over the last 10 years, hours worked per week are still well above those worked in the 1980s.2

Not only are we working long hours, once we leave the office weʼre connected when we are at home, the shops, the kids' soccer match, or even on an overseas on holiday.

Back in the 1980s when you went home, the work day was truly over. In that era, Email was a company that manufactured refrigerators. A mobile phone was more transportable than portable and cost as much as a small car. And the Internet? The term wasnʼt really used in the way we know it today until the late 80s.

Improvements in technology and communication have however allowed companies to increasingly provide employees with flexible workplaces that offer a balance between work and family. Itʼs likely that corporate self-interest plays a big part in this: healthier, happier employees can be more productive.3 Such initiatives are also a great weapon in the battle to attract and maintain great talent.

However, despite the shift by some employers to more flexible work environments, studies show that around one quarter of Australians report their work frequently interferes with other life activities.4 If work-life balance is still elusive in your work place, there are things you can do now to fight back!

Focus on key tasks to help boost productivity

A Harvard Business Review study of knowledge workers found that they spend an average of 41% of their time on discretionary activities.5 Sometimes itʼs difficult to let go, but a rigid focus on key tasks can boost your productivity:

  1. Drop, delegate or outsource your low value tasks
  2. Allocate time for email instead of having your inbox open
  3. Schedule ʻworking daysʼ without meetings to create a steady and uninterrupted workflow
  4. Go into work early to avoid distractions

Take a break to get more done

One in five workers skipped lunch in 2012 even though it can improve concentration, reduce stress and allow you to get more done.6 At the same time many Australians do not take all of their annual leave.7 Research indicates a strong correlation between work-related stress and anxiety and not taking leave breaks.8

Switch off

We live in a connected world where the lines between work and personal time can easily get blurred. Disconnecting from work – perhaps literally switching off – can benefit your well-being and can even have a positive impact on your job performance.9 So turn the phone and computer off, and focus on what you are doing with family, friends or just on your own!

Posted: 06 Sep 2016

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