Jennifer Baker

We’re used to hearing about the ‘work-life balance’ - for good reason! Take note: work-life balance is serious, critical even, to your ongoing career success. When life and work leaves you feeling like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day - caught in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again - then something’s wrong.

Technology has made life easier, but on the other hand the downside is it’s stolen our time - as last month’s article on emails discussed. We now have increased demands on our attention, increased expectations to get information and provide a response, as well as the demand to always be ‘on’. Experts are now calling this the ‘hyperkinetic work environment’. Add in the addiction we now have to media, constantly scanning in an effort to miss nothing, and it is no wonder we’ve lost time.

This way of life is a major contributing factor to increased stress and an out-of-kilter work-life balance. The cost of stress to industry is cited in excess of £530m, with some 14 million working days lost. The HSE Management Standards highlights six areas of work associated with poor wellbeing and lower productivity. Those items on the list are:

Demands of workload, work patterns and work environment

Control - such as how much say you have in how you do your work

Support - encouragement and resources

Role - clarity of your role versus conflicting roles

Change - such as how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated

‘What can I do?’ I hear you ask. The key is to focus on what is within your control and influence. A good starting place is to critically look at how you manage yourself. Are you your own worst enemy? What habits do you have that contribute to a poor work-life balance? Make a list of these habits and answer: what purpose do they serve you? For example, how many days do you work past 6pm? How often do you read and reply to emails at home?

If you had the opportunity to banish the biggest frustration that tips your work-life balance into the red, what would you discard? And what else would go? Choose three things you would banish forever.