Smart tips for a better work–life balance

Has the elusive work–life balance become the 21st century’s holy grail? According to the recent Choosi Workplace Report, over half of respondents consider an emphasis on this to be an important workplace benefit.

However, it’s easier said than done. In Australia,13% of employees work very long hours, above the OECD average of 11%. Australia ranks 27 out of 35 OECD countries when it comes to levels of work-life balance, which is leaving us deficient in our down time.

Have we made work–life balance unachievable by defining it incorrectly? We’re exploring a new way to think about this idea, and tips to practice getting you more time for the things that matter most.

Reframing work–life balance

Dig a little deeper and there’s raw honesty to be found among discussions of work–life balance. Martha Stewart herself confessed a work–life balance never worked for her in a CNN interview, and former Members of Parliament closer to home such as Kate Ellis have been spotlighted by their need to make major career sacrifices to cater to family needs. It’s these honest evaluations that may make it easier for us to achieve a better understanding of what work–life balance is.

Work–life blend

Looking at work–life balance from a different perspective may prevent feelings of failure. ‘Work–life blend’, ‘work–life integration’, and ‘work–life harmony’, are just a few names thrown in the hat to challenge our pre-conceived ideas on the topic. They highlight the difficult nature of balancing everything all the time, and instead nurture the idea of work–life balance being something that’s more fluid.

Who’s got it right?

Finland is the happiest nation in the world according to the UN’s 2018 World Happiness Report [PDF]. Generous parental leave and a healthy work–life balance leave the Finnish with plenty of time to indulge in their own pleasures!

Despite coming in at number 10 in the same report, Australia has room for improvement when it comes to balance as supported by findings in the recent Choosi Workplace Report. A fifth of respondents say they can go a whole week without leaving their workplace at all during work hours, with more than half not leaving their workplace during working hours for between three and five days of the working week. There were also nearly half of respondents that professed to regularly eating lunch at their desk too.

How to work smarter, not harder

To maximise our free time, it pays to work smarter, not harder. Try these ideas to help you find extra time in your day.

Scrap the multitasking & focus

UC, Berkeley professor Morten Hansen researched behaviours in people who performed well and found they’re often focused on less goals, but are obsessed with their chosen few. He suggests ruthlessly cutting all activities in your work day that aren’t producing value, and channel all your effort into the remaining few.

Measure results, not time

Don’t assume the more hours you spend at work, the more work you’re getting done. More often than not, your best ideas and their execution are happening in spurts. Online creative platform Behance knows this, and has found value in mixing up your work with workouts, and coffee runs to promote results as opposed to physical presence.

In addition to this, take some time at the end of the day to review your work and acknowledge all the accomplishments achieved instead of focusing on how much time it took to complete the tasks.

Build routines & habits

This will leave you with less decisions to make, and more time to focus on the things that matter. We’re not suggesting you take the Mark Zuckerberg route and wear the same outfit every day to avoid minor decision making, but it may help you find consistent time for self-appreciation and personal pleasures, and focusing on more important work decisions and tasks.

Open up a discussion with your employer to see whether they would be open to you working from home, or enjoying a flexible working week. Fairwork Australia says that employees (except for casual employees) who have worked with the same employer for over 12 months can ask for flexible working arrangements if they’re the parent of a school aged child or younger, or those who are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010) or if they have a disability.

Make small health changes

It’s no surprise what’s happening outside the office can affect your performance inside the office – and that includes what’s going on with your diet, exercise, and sleep routines.

Sleep deprivation equates to productivity losses of $17.9 billion or $2,418 per person in Australia, so it may be beneficial for you work–life balance to identify what boosts your energy and depletes it outside of work, and nourish yourself accordingly.

Make time for self-care, even if you have to physically schedule it into your day. It can be as small as taking your lunch outside instead of eating in front of your computer, heading to bed earlier than normal one night, or taking a 10-minute break from your screen with a colleague to share a laugh. Self-care can prevent burnout, reduce the negative effects of stress, and helps you focus.

Obtaining a work–life balance is significant to Australian workers. According to the Choosi Workplace Report, it ranks as one of the most important ‘modern’ workplace benefits alongside flexible hours and having access to the latest technology.

By reframing our perspective on the idea, and enlisting the help of handy tips to tweak our habits, we may find a way to the elusive balancing act after all.

Working from home has now become more prevalent and this means you may have some valuable technology and other equipment at home. Consider the benefits of home and contents insurance for extra peace of mind.