10 Tips to Improve Your Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance has become an increasingly important priority for many professionals. One survey found that work-life balance is a top factor for 72% of people when looking for a job. However, even though most professionals desire to achieve a better work-life balance, many still find it challenging to balance their professional and personal lives.
66% of professionals in the US believe they don’t have a good work-life balance, with 48% considering themselves workaholics. It’s not uncommon for people to put in more than the traditional 40-hour workweek, working extra on the weekends and thinking about work on their personal time off. The boundaries between work and personal life have become blurred, and people’s drive to succeed professionally often leads them to sacrifice their personal life and overall wellness to overwork, stress, and burnout.
Creating a harmonious work-life balance is crucial, no matter your professional goals. Focusing on a better work-life balance improves your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing — but it’s also beneficial for your career. Below, we’ll offer ten tips to help you improve your work-life balance to manage your time better, detach from work, and achieve your professional and personal goals.
What is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is a state of harmony between professional and personal demands. A good work-life balance entails less stress, better performance, and all-around better quality of life for employees.
A healthy work-life balance also benefits employers. As CEO of Amplio Recruiting, Chris Chancey, says: “Employers who are committed to providing environments that support work-life balance for their employees save on costs, experience fewer cases of absenteeism, and enjoy a more loyal and productive workforce.”
In today’s career-focused and fast-paced society, however, finding the right work-life balance can be challenging. According to Mental Health America, a community-based national nonprofit, more than one in four Americans describe themselves as “super stressed.”
Some common contributing factors to a poor work-life balance include:
- An increase in responsibilities at work
- An increase in family or caretaking responsibilities at home
- Consistently fluctuating work schedules
- Mandatory overtime
- Limited or no vacation time, maternity/paternity leave, and sick leave
Although achieving work-life balance is possible, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. When thinking about what work-life balance means for you, consider the following tips to create your own system that suits your professional and personal needs.
1. Set Better Boundaries
One of the biggest causes of a poor work-life balance is a lack of boundaries. How often have you returned a work email on the weekends, answered a call from your boss after hours, or agreed to help out a colleague on your personal time off? Working remotely has also blurred the lines between work and personal time.
Whether your job is in-person, hybrid, or fully remote, setting boundaries between work and home life can be helpful for your work-life balance. Learning to set firmer boundaries and say no when appropriate can be hard at first. But it’s an essential part of making the boundaries clear to yourself and others to help maintain a harmonious balance.
Here are a few ways to get started with setting boundaries:
- Clearly designate the times you will be working versus the time you will be spending on personal priorities.
- If working remotely, consider having a space in your home that’s devoted only to work.
- If working onsite, don’t stay past the end of the day unless specifically requested by a supervisor. When it’s time to go home, set aside your tasks so you can return to them with fresh eyes the next day.
- Unplug after work hours and communicate that you will not be responding to non-urgent work-related messages in the evenings or on weekends.
2. Take Breaks
When you’re in the zone or rushing to finish a work-related project or task, it’s easy to want to push through to the end before giving yourself a break or personal time. However, working nonstop can lead to oversights and lower quality work while also sacrificing your emotional well-being. Taking breaks is more beneficial for your productivity, work quality, and health.
Taking short 20-30 minute breaks can help you improve concentration, reduce stress, and stay engaged in your work. This is especially important if you work from home, as being in the comfort of your own home can make it easier to forget to take breaks.
It may feel counterintuitive to take a break if you’re trying to be productive, but science suggests that the relationship between rest and performance is crucial. Indeed, a George Mason University published in Applied Cognitive Psychology showed that students who were given various kinds of 5-minute breaks (e.g. listening to music, watching a video, resting quietly) during a 45-minute attention test performed much better than students who were not given a break at all.
For this reason, it’s crucial to take breaks through your workday. Get up, stretch, walk around, eat, drink water, and get away from your work area. These short breaks will help you feel more refreshed so you can come back to work refocused and recharged.
3. Don’t Work Through Your Lunch Break
In the workforce, it’s been normalized for professionals to continue working while eating their lunch or skip lunch altogether. In addition to taking short breaks throughout the workday, it’s also essential to intentionally use the lunch break given to you. You shouldn’t feel pressure to eat at your desk or work through lunch.
The Harvard Business Review agrees, stating that “Everyone benefits when workplace lunches are normalized.” The 2021 article also cites a study where North American employees who took a daily lunch break reported “higher engagement based on metrics including job satisfaction, productivity, and likelihood to recommend working there to others.”
Taking a proper lunch break to step away from your desk and enjoy your meal mindfully helps you maintain your work-life balance and feel re-energized rather than exhausted and stressed out. You can also use your lunch break to decompress with a longer walk, exercise, or sit outside and enjoy the weather.
4. Prioritize Your Health
One of the critical pieces to improving your work-life balance is prioritizing your mental, emotional, and physical health. When you feel healthy and sound inside and out, you can perform better in your work life and relax more in your personal life. Professionals who prioritize their health tend to miss work less, feel happier, and be more productive at their jobs.
Prioritizing your health doesn’t mean you have to go to extremes or make drastic changes. You can start by building better habits and routines that promote better overall health and wellbeing. Habits or practices such as daily exercise or meditation, social connection, a healthy diet, and therapy can all improve overall health and work-life balance.
Employers also benefit from providing an environment that encourages workers to prioritize their health. When employees are focusing on their health and well-being, they are less likely to take sick days. Companies that have a good work-life balance program for employees also have 50% fewer healthcare costs.
5. Allow Yourself to Unplug
It can be detrimental to work-life balance when you’re not taking the time to unplug intentionally. Having the world and work at our fingertips with smartphones has made it difficult for many professionals to detach from their jobs when they’re off the clock. Being mindful about how much time you spend plugged into your phone — whether you’re checking work emails or mindlessly scrolling social media — can help give your mind a break from the stress of work and the world.
Taking time to unplug and unwind from the online world, both professional and personal, will also help you feel more energized and create a better work-life balance. Here are a few tips to help you successfully unplug:
- Don’t check non-urgent work emails or messages on breaks, after work, or on the weekends.
- Don’t take work home with you on the weekends unless specifically asked by your supervisor.
- Start a new hobby or read a book instead of scrolling through social media.
- Let your colleagues know when you are and aren’t available to communicate after work hours.
- Consider having a no-phone, no-email, or no-social-media day once a week to intentionally unplug.
6. Nurture Your Relationships
Failing to prioritize your work-life balance can lead to strain on your relationships. Family, children, partners, friends: all these relationships are an essential part of maintaining a positive balance.
One of the most effective ways you can start nurturing your relationships is by planning intentional time to spend with your loved ones. No matter how hectic your work schedule may be, having strong and supportive relationships with those you love and care about is integral to maintaining a thriving work-life balance.
7. Give Yourself Compassion
One of the most critical pieces of improving your work-life balance is to practice self-compassion. Ultimately, even if you have many ideal days where you perfectly balance your professional and personal duties, there is no picture-perfect work-life balance. For that reason, it’s crucial to give yourself compassion and not be hard on yourself while you try to improve.
Instead of striving for perfection, work towards a realistic balance and goals. Some days may be more work-focused, while others may be centered on personal time, hobbies, and self-care. Balance in your work and personal life is achieved over time, not by maintaining a perfect balance every day.
8. Set Goals & Prioritize Tasks
Setting achievable goals and prioritizing your tasks is a great way to make improving your work-life balance more manageable. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Analyze how you’re currently spending your time. Identify achievable goals in your work and personal life.
- Similarly, identify low-priority tasks to take off your to-do list altogether.
- Track your time and identify the most naturally productive and unproductive times in your day.
- Then, block off your productive hours for getting the most intensive tasks done.
If you feel overwhelmed by time constraints, look at how you’re allocating your time each day. Try to notice how often you’re checking emails, social media, or your phone — or how much time you spend binge-watching your favorite show each night. This will give you insight into where your time is going and how you can better prioritize your day.
9. Reduce Decision Fatigue
Decision fatigue refers to the deterioration of mental energy after spending a long day or consecutive days making decision after decision. Having to make a consistently high number of decisions can wear on your brain, leading to either low-quality impulsive decisions or analysis paralysis and inaction.
You may think that in order to grow your professional career successfully you need to make as many decisions as possible. However, the world’s top CEOs disagree. Jeff Bezos had this to say about decision making: “If I make, like, three good decisions a day, that’s enough. And they should be as high-quality as I can make them.”
While it may seem like the number of decisions you have to make daily is out of your control, you can look at which scenarios you have control over and eliminate any unnecessary decision-making. For example, you can help reduce potential decision fatigue by setting your clothes out the night before, meal prepping and eating the same meals during the week, or reducing your daily to-do list to three or four top-priority tasks.
10. Ask For Help
Striving for a better work-life balance can sometimes feel overwhelming or challenging, especially if you’re relying on just yourself. If you’re a high achiever, you may think that it’s easier to take on everything — including finding more balance — on your own. However, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help and leaning on a good support system.
Communicating with your family, partner, or boss about your needs and goals for improving your work-life balance can take a weight off your shoulders and make the process less stressful. Whenever you feel like you need a hand staying on track, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your support system.
Improving Your Work-Life Balance: The Bottom Line
Improving your work-life balance is an ongoing process. The most important part is to start making small changes, stay compassionate toward yourself, and learn and adjust as you go. Assessing your priorities and keeping your goals, time, and energy in check will help you take the process one day at a time and achieve the right work-life balance over time.
Chris Dyer is a company culture and leadership expert and CMO of PeopleG2, which has continuously been ranked as one of the best places to work. If you’re interested in learning about how Chris can help you prioritize work-life balance as a part of your company culture, reach out to get in contact today.