Work life balance refers to the way a person could combine his work along with other areas of his life like socialization, exercising and childcare. This is often a problem for all because it is about how long we have to work and the nature of our work.
Importance of work life balance
The demands of work in UK put pressure on the workers especially on their physical and mental psyches. The pressure of work increases as workers have to toil out for longer periods of time. This affects their lifestyle and could lead to damaging their mental health as well. The Mental Health Foundation worries that a number of people tend to neglect important factors of themselves which will make them resilient or resistant to mental problems.
Approximately 3 out of ten workers experience mental problems in one year. The increase of working hours in Britain would also increase the percent of workers who will have mental problems. A survey by the Department for
Education and Employment in 2000 said that 1 out of 8 workers worked beyond 60 hours in one week. Also in 2000, the Prime Minister developed the Work Life Balance campaign. For the next two years, workers who work beyond 60 hours rose to 1 out of 6. More women were determined to be working for this long. Stress is also related to sick leaves and costs some British industries at least £370 million in a year or around 91 million work days. This is just half of the days lost.
Symptoms of unhealthy work-life balance
The Mental Health Foundation has mounted a study to highlight this problem. They gathered 577 respondents and had those complete questionnaires which needed information on the following: (1) the number of hours they work, (2) the reasons for their work, (3) how they feel about their work, and (4) its impact on the other aspects of their life. Findings of the study revealed the following:
- 1/3 of the respondents felt unhappy about their work hours
- 27% of the respondents say that they feel depressed when they have to work long hours while 34% of them said they felt anxious and 58% said they have become irritable
- More than 40% of the respondents say that they were neglecting other areas of their life due to work. This leads to their vulnerability of developing mental health problems
- As the number of hours spent on work is increased, so will the hours the workers would have spend worrying about it
- 42% of the women felt unhappy as oppose to 29% of men. Men tend to love competition and the pressure that comes along with work than women.
- When the respondent’s weekly hours for work increases, so will their feelings of unhappiness
- Around 2/3 of the respondents felt that they were being negative with their personal lives, that they feel like they have poor relationships in their home as well as feeling that they have some form of physical or mental disorder
The guidelines could help you to improve your work life balance:
- Be responsible for your own work-life balance. Speak up when your work demands too much from you. Employers should be aware that the pressures will affect their employer’s performance.
- Relax and take a break in between work. Get out of the workplace as much as you can.
- Prioritize work to avoid staying up late in the office. Set up a priority plan to work selectively on things that are important and that you can do in at a time. Avoid doing unnecessary things like unstructured meetings and unproductive activities.
- Seriously take the precautions of working for long hours on your mental and physical well-being. Reduce stress by doing regular exercises or doing new forms of hobbies.
- Separate work from leisure. Make an effort not to bring work to your home.
Learning new hobbies or doing regular bouts of exercise or socializing with friends could reduce stress effectively. Do not sacrifice your relaxation period for work as much as you can. Ensure also that you could do these things along with your work. Keep track of your work hours to assess if you struck a healthy work-life balance. Count the number of hours you have spent worrying about your work or look out for the cumulative effect of working long hours. Assessing these factors is a good indicator of stress in the workplace. Gather other people in your workplace to talk about these things and seek for a solution for it together.
How the workplace could help
Having your workplace involved in assessing your work-life balance is a good idea. The workplace should be able to do the following:
- Caution the workers of how long work hours could affect your well-being
- Encourage the employees to be more open about their problems in work especially with the hours. They should let the employees feel that they can speak up for their rights
- Develop useful policies that recognize the relationship of mental problem and work related stress. These rules should detail the responsibilities and roles of the employees to promote mental health. The rules should also detail the mechanisms on how the organization could help their staff who have mental health problems
- Give improved trainings to managers to help them spot poor work-life balance and stress. The managers should also be well trained in developing better systems for protecting their employees.
- Making sure that the jobs can be managed within a time frame
- Work with a prioritization scheme; meaning do the most important tasks first before moving on to less important work.
- Encourage relaxing routines that could promote excellent mental health like exercise.
- Audit work environments and identify the elements of policy, practice or culture that could be damaging to everyone’s healthy work-life balance
- Allow all the employees to attend support services and counselling held at working hours just like they would attend a medical appointment
- Monitor and evaluate the policies regularly against work indicators like absence, sickness and staff satisfaction