How to Balance Work and Life: A Practical Guide
We don’t need to be told the importance of “balance”: we’re constantly told to balance our budgets, eat a balanced diet, balance time spent with our partners, our family and friends. These are the small, contained stories of our lives. But what about the bigger picture: that huge concept of a healthy work/life balance?
The simple truth is that our to-do lists are getting longer and our lives are growing more complex, and if you want to feel less overwhelmed and more in control, now’s the time to learn how to nurture a healthy work/life balance.
How to Balance Work and Life: A Practical Guide, is all the learning you’ll need to get started on a path of discovery towards a work/life balance because it’s just impossible to do it all. Or is it?
What exactly does work/life balance look like?
In its simplest form, the definition is: maintaining optimal performance at work and the best quality of life at home. But, as we know, most days there’s nothing simple about work or home life, and it’s impossible to perform at our very best consistently and without fail. It’s when we try to live up to this unforgiving expectation that it becomes a continuous juggling act and we feel that we don’t always get to choose which ball falls.
The problem with juggling is the tendency to take care of the high priority tasks while neglecting the less pressing aspects of work and family life. What this looks like in reality is: you hand in a well-executed report that had an impossible deadline but you’re too tired to interact meaningfully with your kids and partner at the end of the day. Or, new to a job, you’re eager to prove yourself which leads to you consistently working late resulting in you failing to build relationships with your colleagues. So does a healthy work/life balance exist in real life?
There is a more enlightened way of deciding what work/life balance looks like. It’s also kinder, and more doable for those of us who don’t have a genuine superhero cape neatly folded in the closet. It involves finding your own definition of work/life balance – that space where you’re most likely to feel happy, fulfilled, and productive.
To do this, first understand why you work and what family means to you. For instance, your reason for working is not to make $1,000 a week – but to provide financial security for your family. In the same way, you probably don’t work to write perfect reports or to meet deadlines. It’s more likely that you want to put your skills to good use and feel as if you’re contributing meaningfully to your team, company, or industry. In essence, success is only partly about what we get from work or from life. It is also about how it makes us feel – proud, happy, loved, satisfied, accomplished.
Once you’ve worked out why you work, and what family life means to you, you’ll be able to create your own work/life balance definition, giving priority to your passions instead of a to-do list based on what you think others expect of you. This may involve turning down a promotion to take better care of your health, or taking a job with lower pay to cut out a two-hour commute so you can spend more time with the family. It could even mean putting off cutting the lawn to help the kids settle into a new house.
Jim Bird of worklifebalance.com advises placing daily achievement as well as enjoyment at the center of your work/life balance definition. He describes these aspects as, “the front and back of the coin of value in life.”
Placing all the emphasis on the achievement side of the coin while neglecting enjoyment can lead to success without happiness. Too often we get into the mental habit of telling ourselves that we’ll get around to the enjoyment of life, “as soon as…” we’ve achieved one thing or another. Consciously focusing on both the achievement and enjoyment of daily life in equal measure, allows us to get the full value from life.
Author Stephen Covey, sums up the concept in this way: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Why is work/life balance so important now?
The idea of work/life balance is not a new one. But as we’ve seen, its definition has begun to move away from the concept of, “I can do it all, and I can do it well,” to a more individualized definition of what balance means to each person based on intended life achievements and enjoyment in equal parts.
A Lancashire University Management School study suggests that the idea of work/life balance is changing but still tends to have a different meaning for employees and employers. Traditionally, business has been preoccupied with just one thing – profit – while employees have been concerned with the totality of their lives. This has often put companies and employees in conflict.
A seismic shift is taking place in a number of companies that see their employees not only as a means to an end (profit), but hold themselves at least partly responsible for helping their employees to achieve some sort of equilibrium. Offering flexible work options is one way to bridge the gap between a company’s needs and those of its workers.
The reasons for this increase in flexible work practices are most often given as: new challenges faced by businesses, difficulties with the commute as human populations grow at unprecedented speed, technological advances, and even labor market demographics. Mentioned less often, but still a major contributing factor to the growing popularity of flexible work practices, is its potential to help employees figure out how to balance work and life.
“We have overstretched our personal boundaries and forgotten that true happiness comes from living an authentic life fueled with a sense of purpose and balance.”– Dr. Kathleen Hall, stress expert.
The consequences of poor work/life balance
Technology has done much to blur the lines between work and personal life. In 2017, a French court ruled that companies employing more than 50 workers had to set out the hours employees were not to send or answer emails. The purpose of this “right to disconnect” law was to avoid burnout by protecting employees’ private time.
What this means for the future is that individuals will need to establish their own boundaries based on their personal belief of what work/life balance truly means. Not having to be on call between five and nine in the evening may be crucial for a single mom, while working extra hours would be welcomed by a parent paying to help put their kids through school fees or a young person keen to work their way up the ladder.
For employees forced to put aside their personal and family life for the sake of work demands, it may be time to look for another job. The consequences of poor work/life balance can be extremely damaging. According to the Mayo Clinic, this typically takes the form of:
- Fatigue, which could impact an individual’s ability to work productively and think clearly, with dangerous or costly consequences.
- Poor health, which can result from bad eating habits and lack of physical exercise. Stress suppresses the immune system and can even make a person vulnerable to disease and infection. Stress also increases the risk of substance abuse.
For those who believe that their life has spun out of control, feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to achieve a healthy work/life balance, the Mayo Clinic advises that they consult with a professional counselor or mental health provider to help them get back on track.
As Jaime Marie Wilson says: “work/life balance is about creating a life that flows with you rather than a life you have to power through.”
The role of the support network in work/life balance
According to research published by the Harvard Business Review, gender-specific roles in North America and Europe are a thing of the past. Nowadays both men and women are in paid employment while also caring for children and the elderly. With this in mind, the study set out to answer this question: “How do demands and the amount of support received at work or at home affect the amount of support a person gives to their spouse or coworkers, and how does this in turn, affect the relationship of their larger family or team?”
The study found that the paid employment portion of the day had a definite impact on relationships at home, but husbands and wives were affected in different ways. Husbands, after a challenging workday (which included significant emotional demands), gave less emotional support to their wives. In fact, both husband and wife rated family time poorly. On the other hand, after a similarly stressful workday, wives continued to provide the same emotional support to their husbands as they normally would, and the quality of family time did not suffer. (The study focused specifically on emotional support, so it could be that after a difficult day, men took out the trash or settled the kids for the night, but didn’t necessarily feel like talking.)
Results were similar in the workplace, with men providing less emotional support to colleagues after having a draining morning, while women continued to give the same level of support to colleagues irrespective of how emotionally draining their morning had been.
Researchers believe the reason for this is gender stereotypes that are still prevalent today, and that expose men and women to gender-based expectations from a young age. This suggests that the women in the study felt more responsible for maintaining relationships at work and at home than the men did. The other explanation is that women, even in high-status jobs, are typically still the primary caregiver at home and feel more responsible for the home environment than their partners.
So how do you balance work and life when men and women are affected differently by a bad day at work? It’s important that couples understand how to give their partner the support they need.
The study suggests that active listening was the best emotional support, while not listening was the worst. This went for both men and women.
It seems, what is important to us at the end of the day – whether good or bad – is to be heard and to have our feelings acknowledged. Of course, every couple is different. What’s most important when figuring out how to better balance work and home, is to understand that, while one person might feel supported by being able to talk about a difficult day whilst truly being heard, another might find that the best support their partner can give is to do the dishes and draw them a bath.
So have a conversation about the type of support you both need when you arrive home drained – or exhilarated – from work. Keep in mind that the timing of support is as important as the type. You might prefer to go for a run, have a soak in the tub, or get the kids off to bed before listening to each other’s workday. Or what might work for you is to have a 10-minute vent session or celebration before dinner.
This combination of the type of emotional support and the timing of it can work equally well at work by, for instance, putting aside some time at the start of the workday when colleagues can share the good and bad parts of their morning then move on to their work tasks.
When setting out to discover how to balance work and life it seems we will make limited long-term progress without establishing our emotional support networks.
“Evaluate the people in your life; then promote, demote, or terminate. You’re the CEO of your life.” - Tony Gaskins
Advice for new parents returning to work
How to keep a work/life balance is one of the biggest challenges facing new parents returning to work.
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, in an article for the Harvard Business Review, suggests that when going back to work after having a baby, parents should focus on three (surprising) things in order to balance work and life – your sense of self, your boss, and your company’s corporate culture. If this sounds daunting, begin with these three steps:
1. New parents are particularly vulnerable to a diminished sense of self – that’s the collection of beliefs you hold about yourself. Not only have they been out of the workforce for several weeks or months, they are also feeling the effects of sleepless nights and the weight of being responsible for another fragile human being. Take strength in numbers (even if it is just the two of you) by making sure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to: the kind of parents you want to be, your career aspirations, and who your agreed support network is. Don’t aim for perfection or what you believe others expect of you. It may take a bit of workshopping, but if your conversations are as honest and detailed as possible, you will be able to jump back into your career with a solid roadmap to guide you on your way.
2. Now it’s time to talk to your boss. If the conversation is with a parent who has had to navigate their own way through a life of both work and parenting, the conversation is probably going to be easier than if you’re in a male-dominated environment in which conversations about balancing childcare and work ambitions are typically frowned upon. But persevere, and keep in mind that work is going to demand all it can from you, and the home front will too. It’s up to you to find your own work/life balance.
The idea is to speak to your boss about your career goals, and the timeframes in which you expect to achieve them. Or it could be limits that you are setting. Suggest solutions that can progress your career goals or enable your limits. Wittenberg-Cox suggests hanging onto your sense of self by remembering that women make up 60% of university graduates – and half the incoming talent pool in the majority of businesses. For men, she suggests, keep in mind that you serve as a role model for new ways of balancing the demands of work and life.
3. Take time to understand the corporate rules in your company around family life so that you know what your path is likely to be, going forward. Reach out to your coworkers who have kids to find out what their experiences have been like. Wittenberg-Cox warns that even when companies have progressive policies, the reality may lag behind. In this case, be prepared to be a pioneer at times – it helps if you have other parent co-workers standing with you in order to move change forward where necessary.
“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls—family, health, friends, integrity—are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”– Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty International.
Mindset is crucial to achieving work/life balance
According to Mental Health America, one in four Americans say they are “super stressed”. One of the most important steps on the journey of self-discovery towards achieving a lasting work/life balance is having a look at our mindset around success.
Conventional wisdom tells us that to be successful we have to be willing to do “whatever it takes”. Being first into work and the last to leave. Taking on a daunting workload and doing it better than anyone else. You might also feel a constant pressure to sign the kids up for extra classes, get them into that prestigious school, or manage a move to a bigger house in a fancier suburb. The typical idea of success involves significant time and personal commitment, and usually a good deal of stress. Of course we now know that this is a skewered way of looking at life. It’s only one side of the coin – achievement without enjoyment.
If you think you might be stuck in the traditional way of thinking about success, start to evaluate your mindset by asking yourself these questions:
- Does the business you work for measure success by how much time people spend at the office, or is success based on getting tasks done on time?
- If success is measured by time spent at the office, would you be willing to change the company you work for or the type of job you do in order to achieve a better work/life balance?
- If completion of tasks is what matters, then what’s stopping you from changing how you spend your time?
As we’ve seen, balancing work and life is about giving achievement and enjoyment equal importance. Although we can easily accept that a successful life includes achievement, it’s harder to accept that a successful life pays as much attention to enjoyment as it does to achievement. This is the not-so-secret secret to achieving lasting work/life balance.
It takes time and effort to break mental habits, and our mindset around success might be an especially hard one to break.
Begin by prioritizing time for family, friends, and hobbies. If you find that family, friends, and personal interests tend to be squeezed into what you’ve seen as the “achievement” areas of your life – in other words your job and career – then consider where you need more flexibility. Is it your ideas of success that are causing the squeeze, or the culture of the company you work for? Depending on your discovery, you’ll know which steps you need to take next to have a better work/life balance.
Remember that you don’t have to enjoy or even like your job, but you can enjoy the everyday aspects of it: whether that’s building relationships with your co-workers, helping out a grateful customer, color-coding the filing system, or learning a new skill that’s turned out to be more enjoyable than you first thought.
By continuously prioritizing enjoyment as activities on your to-do list, you’ll be well on your way to achieving and managing a better work/life balance.
Life coach, Rasheed Ogunlaru has this to say: “Always take some of the play, fun, freedom, and wonder of the weekend into your week and your work.”
How to overcome the pressure of getting the work/life balance just right
One of the biggest obstacles to creating a work/life balance that works for you, is the pursuit of perfection. Although some lip service is paid to inner beauty and the pursuit of inner peace, we are bombarded with images of impossible physical beauty and stories of exceptional achievement. This reinforces the idea that achievement in life is paramount, even at the expense of our health, finances and peace of mind.
To achieve work/life balance, get rid of any idea of getting that balance just right, or getting it just right all of the time. As with most things in life, you will get it right some of the time. So give yourself a break. With practice you will find new ways to make enjoyment as important to your daily life as getting to work on time or making sure the kids are fed and clean. You’ll find better ways to support your partner and know how to ask for the kind of support you need, when you need it most. You’ll find what doesn’t work. You’ll make mistakes along the way. But you’ll adjust this, and change that, and somewhere on your journey you’ll realize that your life is a good balance of achievement and enjoyment in more or less equal parts, as well as being less stressed than you used to be, with a better quality of relationships.
But what if the thought of achieving balance gets you thinking about creating a spreadsheet to monitor your progress, or maybe you have the urge to start categorizing the various areas of your life, and measuring the amount of achievement versus enjoyment? If this sounds like you, you could be struggling with perfectionism. Why is this the enemy of managing your work/life balance? Because perfectionism can become a habit, or even compulsive. Since flawlessness does not exist in the real world, striving for it can waste our time and lead to exhaustion and burnout.
According to Anxiety Canada, perfectionism is an inclination to set extremely high standards that can never be met, or can only be achieved with great difficulty. Perfectionists typically believe that anything that is less than perfect is unacceptable, and that even small imperfections can be disastrous. This can lead to low self-esteem and depression.
Begin to tackle perfectionism with these three steps for a healthier work/life balance:
Step 1: Free your mind of perfectionist thinking
Perfectionists tend to be highly self-critical so if you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, take stock of the reality of the situation – for example, you were 10 minutes late for the meeting because there was an accident on the freeway and you couldn’t possibly have made it on time. Since mental habits are hard to break, begin by talking out loud to yourself (when circumstances allow). Stick with it. It may takes months to establish a new way of thinking that is more realistic and kinder to yourself. It’s helpful to do some reading or speak to a mental health professional about recognizing the signs of perfectionism so you’re able to work towards re-educating your brain when they do crop up.
Step 2: Concentrate on outcomes over details
Too often we can spend time obsessing over details and forget to look at the bigger picture. This could be taking a long time to make sure your PowerPoint presentation is perfect then feeling stiff and anxious about making a mistake during delivery of the presentation. Most people will overlook the odd typo or temporary slide malfunction if you’re relaxed, enthusiastic and enjoy delivering your presentation.
Okay, so your spouse might not do a perfect job washing the dishes. But being critical or tense about it, or insisting that you wash the dishes because “only you can do it the way it should be done”, will not only increase your workload, but damage relationships in the long run, as the people around you fail to live up to your expectations and possibly begin to resent you as a result. Get out of the detail trap by asking these questions:
- Does it really matter?
- What is the worst case scenario?
- If this does happen, will I survive?
- Will this seem as important in a week? Or even tomorrow?
Get yourself out of the perfectionist habit by learning to compromise for a better work/life balance. This could take the form of a mental bargaining process. If you’re anxious about making a mistake with your presentation, ask yourself what level of perfectionism you’re willing to accept. Then settle on a more reasonable standard.
If you find yourself spending four hours on a presentation when it should take you two, set yourself a time limit and then stick to it. If your spouse washes the dishes first then the glasses or you believe the water isn’t nearly soapy enough, ask yourself if you’re willing to settle for less sparkly glassware in exchange for a happy partner who feels appreciated.
Step 3: Begin to change your behavior
As with all phobias, managing perfectionism is about facing your fears and slowly but surely overcoming them. This could be deliberately arriving 10 minutes late to a meeting so you can see that most times other meeting attendees are pretty understanding, or asking your mom to watch the kids so you can have a bit of time to yourself at the shops, or leaving the dishes in the sink even when you know your friends are about to stop by. It can also take the form of admitting when you’re tired or overwhelmed and asking for help or a deadline extension. Try missing your daily gym workout for a stroll on the beach because whereas the gym is all about achievement, the beach if pure enjoyment – it’s these small exchanges that allow us to begin to figure out how to balance work and life healthily and successfully. Swapping out an achievement-based activity for an enjoyable activity now and then is also an excellent way to reward yourself for the steps you’ve taken towards managing your work/life balance while overcoming time and energy-sapping perfectionism.
“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it.” – Edith Schaeffer
Managing your energy for a better work/life balance
A McKinsey & Company article on work/life balance encourages us to focus on better managing our energy as a way to improve the work/life balance. This involves no longer thinking of work as draining and our personal lives as invigorating. In reality, aspects of our workday can energize us while family life can deplete our energy. The article suggests that we become aware of the different types of energy in our lives – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – and learn to balance these energies.
Begin by understanding physical energy (not only tiredness, but how you feel in your body at different times of the day) then schedule “physical refresh points” into your day. Mental energy (from analytical and thinking tasks) will help you define what tires you mentally and what invigorates you. Emotional energy (when connecting with others or feelings of fear or anger) can either drain us emotionally or energize us. Spiritual energy (when we do something meaningful to us) which can be in the form of compassion, integrity, creativity or peace.
Take these three steps to manage your energy for a better work/life balance:
- Change your mindset, if necessary, about the nature of energy – you can’t operate at a high energy level all the time – you need time to recuperate.
- Learn to compartmentalize. Don’t allow the negative experiences and emotions to gather in a snowball effect. Put the negative into perspective by interspersing it with what is good and positive in your daily experience.
- See enjoyment less as a reward and more as an essential way to boost vital energy. Sleep is not a reward, nor is it optional. Think of daily energy boosters as being as necessary and as beneficial as sleep.
“Energy is the essence of life. Every day you decide how you're going to use it by knowing what you want and what it takes to reach that goal, and by maintaining focus.”– Oprah Winfrey
Practical work/life balance tips
Now that we’ve explored what work/life balance is and why it’s important, let’s take a look at the best work/life balance tips out there.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Keep exercise at the top of the crucial-things-in-life-list – right up there with eating right, getting enough sleep, and good dental hygiene. Your body was made to move and long hours spent at a desk or in meetings can have a seriously bad effect on more than your muscles. So here’s an important tip: Search until you find a form of regular exercise that gives you the physical workout you need, while also making you happy. If the thought of pounding away on a treadmill makes you want to curl up into the fetal position, why not join a walk/run club. It’s a way of exercising in a highly-supportive environment surrounded by friends. According to the Mayo Clinic exercise helps your body to excrete feel-good endorphins which help to lift your mood and even put you in a meditative state.
Bryan Robinson, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, is the author of the book Chained to the Desk. He recommends finding a form of exercise that you can build into your life to balance out the body’s stress responses and our body’s rest and digest response.
Get enough sleep
When you were in high school you probably told yourself that you were going to sleep in as much as you wanted to when you left home. But as we know, in adult life we find far too many reasons to skimp on our recommended eight hours. There are times when this can’t be avoided – the arrival of a baby, for instance. But most of the time, getting a full night’s sleep is a matter of choice. Sleep deprivation over time can be catastrophic, so begin to change your mental habits by jealously guarding your sleep. Healthy and fully rested, you’ll have all the foundation you need to keep your work/life balance.
Unplug and tune in
We’re well aware of the benefits technology has brought to our lives, but it seems we have given up our quiet time, our privacy, and personal space without a fight. The good news is that we can get back our peace and quiet at the flick of a switch. Sometimes we forget how easy it is to push back on the amount of time we spend on tablets, laptops, and smartphones, in order to make room in our lives.
Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life, advises that we experience true quality time by being present in the moment and resisting the urge to text while at your kid’s soccer match or responding to emails while out with friends. He goes so far as to say that this allows us to develop a stronger habit of resilience which gives us a greater sense of control over our lives as opposed to reactive people who feel less in control and are more prone to stress.
Ask for flexibility
Although working from home is nothing new to many women, flexi-time and telecommuting are fast becoming the norm in today’s business world. Mental Health America has research that suggests employees on flexible schedules are more productive and loyal to their employer. If you’re struggling to hold down a fulltime job, while also caring for a new baby, young children, or elderly parents, a flexi-time job might be one of the most effective ways of managing your work/life balance. Research the best work/life balance jobs available to you. You might be surprised at the variety of options out there!
As we’ve seen, communication is an important part of your work/life balance journey. Cultivate the habit of articulating how you feel, what support you need, and your plans for achieving a healthy work/life balance. Build into your plan the likelihood that something’s going to go wrong at some point, or someone is going to obstruct your path. Either rethink your plan or stand your ground. Do not take on more than your fair share of work or household responsibilities, and try whenever possible to commit yourself to no more activities than you can comfortably pull off. Remember, that one of the most important aspects of effective communication in work/life balance is being able to ask for support or help when you need it.
Get to know your time traps
Executive coach, Joel Garfinkle, cautions against time traps that deplete our time, energy, and focus if we don’t learn to recognize them and learn how to manage or avoid them completely where possible. Common time traps include:
- Spending too much time in the office where some of the more challenging issues of our lives can be avoided.
- Micro-managing our own time or another’s time because we’re concerned that we may miss out on something. This can be asking for constant updates from employees for fear of losing control of a project, or overscheduling our personal time for fear of wasting it.
- Spending more time than necessary on simple routine and procrastinating when it comes to more challenging work or the more difficult aspects of life.
- Trying to get by with no schedule at all and spending time each day figuring out what you’re meant to be doing.
We all have our time traps so, without judgement, make a list of yours. Garfinkle recommends concentrating on one or two of your time traps each week and finding ways to boost your productivity and your attitude towards time. By getting rid of time traps and increasing our productivity we free ourselves to spend more time on enjoyment.
Cultivating the journey-perspective
We get our news in small doses, and the TV shows we watch and the books we read have a quick and succinct beginning, middle, and end. We crash-diet, try to sort out years of exhaustion with a two-week vacation, or set ourselves fitness goals that go from flabby to marathon-ready in a matter of months. But a healthier and more natural approach is learning to cultivate a journey-perspective of life.
If you’ve been slapping chili dogs in front of the kids or pulling microwave pizza from the ice box, take control of your family’s health by setting out to cook two or three healthy dinners each week. Instead of focusing on fitness as your exercise goal, set yourself the task of finding a form of exercise that you find enjoyable – you’re more likely to reach your fitness goals and maintain them this way, than if you set unrealistic goals and squeeze them into an immediate and punishing timeframe. By thinking of each aspect of your life as a continuous journey, you’re more likely to have a better work/life balance that adjusts to the changes within yourself and in your life.
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.”– Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post.
Frequently Asked Questions about work/life balance
What is work/life balance and why is it important?
The traditional explanation of work/life balance tells us that this is a “state of equilibrium in which the demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal.” But most people find this impossible to achieve. A better approach is to create your own work/life balance definition – that space where you’re most likely to feel happy, fulfilled, and productive. Without work/life balance we feel pulled between our work demands and those of family and personal pursuits. This can lead to stress, depression, and poor health.
Does work/life balance exist?
Yes, it does. But the importance of work/life balance has a different meaning for each individual. It is important to understand that it cannot be defined in a list. It is part learning experience, part journey of discovery that lasts a lifetime.
How to balance work and life?
When you understand why you work and what family life means to you, you will be able to give priority to your passions instead of a to-do list based on what you think others expect of you. This may involve turning down a promotion to take better care of your health, or taking a job with lower pay to cut out a two hour commute that allows you to spend more time with the family. It could even mean putting off cutting the lawn to help the kids settle into a new house. Remember, work/life balance is not about giving equal time to work and family. It is about finding a way of life that allows you to achieve and experience enjoyment in equal parts. When we do this, we feel productive and fulfilled while also feeling at peace with ourselves, our family, and our lives.
How to keep work/life balance
First we have to do a bit of soul searching to figure out the behavioral habits that keep us from achieving work/life balance. This can be setting unrealistic goals and perfectionism, or failing to effectively communicate the type of support we need from a spouse. Once we’ve identified our stumbling blocks, we can begin to cultivate the physical and mental habits needed to maintain a balance based on your personal work/life balance definition.
Does flexible work help work/life balance?
Yes, it does. An increasing number of companies are expanding their flexible work practices including one of the world’s biggest professional services firms, PwC. This company has gone a step further by creating a “culture of flexibility,” and they’ve also been vocal about how flexible work has become crucial to their company’s success. Flexibility not only creates a positive work experience, it is also extremely helpful in the quest for work/life balance, allowing an individual to have greater control over his or her schedule, based on specific needs and personal preferences.
What will the work/life balance challenges be of telecommuting flexibility?
You’ll need to polish your time management skills because there will be distractions. Use time tracking software, work off to-do lists, and find a workspace in your home where you can effectively go to work each day.
If you aren’t already comfortable with technology, you’ll want to get familiar before you take up the challenge of remote work. You don’t need to know it all. Just find out what works for you and get clued up the relevant devices, apps, and software.
Keep the communication channels open by making use of communication tools like Skype or Slack. Set a daily or weekly catch-up talk with your team to keep up to date on the progress of projects as well as future goals, and any work-related issues.
Set work hours for yourself even though you’re working from home. Without boundaries, it’s too easy to allow home life to seep into work time, and vice versa.
Keep an eye on your health. It’s easier for an expanding waistline to go unnoticed when you don’t have to zip up the jeans or wear a belt every day. Schedule exercise into your week and if necessary, take part in a form of group exercise such as joining a walking or running club. Pack yourself a healthy work lunch and make the refrigerator a no-go area while you’re working.
Don’t become socially isolated. As a remote worker, it's easy to go for days without seeing anyone other than your family. Arrange to meet face-to-face with colleagues regularly for a meal. Meet a friend for lunch or become part of a community of flexi-time workers and meet regularly for coffee. You could also help out at your local non-profit as a volunteer.
How can technology help work/life balance?
Technology can be a great aid to work/life balance by allowing a person to take advantage of flexible work options. Some companies have developed bespoke apps, software, and devices specifically for use by their remote workers. Technology also helps you to save time on complex tasks and better prioritize your time.
Best work/life balance jobs
Some of the best work/life balance jobs include:
- Corporate recruiter
- UX designer
- Data scientist
- Strategy manager
- UI designer
- Technical account manager
- Software engineer programmer
- Recruiting coordinator
- Flexible sales representative
- Mobile developer
- DevOps engineer
- Marketing analyst
- Substitute teacher
- Research engineer
- Library assistant
- Social media manager
- Content manager
- Graphic designer freelance
- PHP developer
- Web designer
- Technical editor
- Marketing coordinator
- Recruiting manager
- Client manager
- Computer programmer
- Creative manager
What advice do successful people give about work/life balance?
Our pick of work/life balance quotes:
“Women in particular need to keep an eye on their physical and mental health, because if we’re scurrying to and from appointments and errands, we don’t have a lot of time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own to-do list.”– Michelle Obama
“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”– Dolly Parton
“You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” – Oprah Winfrey
“You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied with life.”―Heather Schuck, The Working Mom Manifesto
“So find your rhythm, understand what makes you resentful, and protect it. You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you.” ―Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo
"Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away." — Barbara de Angelis
"Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing." — Harriet Braiker
"When I think about work/life balance, I don't imagine it as a perfect day where I got to spend the exact right amount of time having an impact at work and snuggling with my kids at home. I never achieve that. But over the course of a month, or a quarter, or a year, I try to make time for the people and experiences I value." – Jane Park
Pioneering flexible work options for a better work/life balance
Avon has pioneered flexible work options for more than a century. Part-time or full-time, in sweats or stilettos, women have been selling Avon anytime, anywhere — online and in-person – and when it comes to building your business, we’re here to help open the door to new opportunities. Find out more about how you can join the Avon Nation which is all about celebrating each other and our achievements in business and in life.